In early years, Darlene loved backing up the greats
BY CINDY PEARLMAN July 7, 2013 2:30PM
A Celebration Of Carole King And Her Music To Benefit Paul Newman's The Painted Turtle Camp
She knew Elvis Presley long before he left the building.
Music legend Darlene Love remembers the King as being “very introverted and quiet, except when it came to singing.
“When Elvis found out that I had a gospel background, he would motion me away for 20 minutes. It was Elvis, his guitar and me. Instead of taking a lunch break, we’d sit around sing old gospel songs.”
Love, 70, sang background vocals for Elvis during his 1968 comeback special and also lent her powerful pipes to the song stylings of Tom Jones, Cher, the Beach Boys and Sam Cooke.
The voices that sing backup often to little acclaim are the subject of “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” opening Friday at Landmark Century Centre Cinema. They’re the ones who Bruce Springsteen says dream of “taking the walk” from the back of the stage to the front.
Love, who was under contract to Phil Spector, is also known for singing the 1962 smash “He’s a Rebel” and playing Trish Murtaugh in the “Lethal Weapon” movies.
1 I s it tough to sing backup when you should be the lead singer with all the fame and fortune?
I started singing backup in the ’50s. In the beginning, it was a lot of fun. It didn’t cost us anything. It was a case of, “Let’s get in our cars and go to the recording studio and do our thing with the other singers.” People were just as excited about having us as we were about singing with them. It wasn’t until many years later that I really got the bug to sing as a solo artist. I was fine with being in the background and then in the front. I wanted audiences to be able to really hear my powerful voice, which is such a gift.
2 Let’s talk about some of the famous people you’ve backed up. What do you remember about Chicago’s Sam Cooke?
Sam was very special. He was one of my first sessions. We did “Chain Gang”” together, and he was fun to be around. We did the show “Shindig” back in 1964. We’d hang out in the cafeteria. I used to travel around and see him singing at churches. He would take a song apart like a puzzle
3 How about Luther Vandross?
He was my favorite. He started out as a background singer. He was also so funny. I would tell him, “If you ever lose your voice, you could end up as a comedian.” I loved that he paid attention to the background singers.”
4 How did it feel be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Bruce and Steve Van Zandt went to bat for me. They kept saying I needed to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They went to work. We’ve been good friends since the day we met decades ago when I was working in Lou Adler’s club and invited Bruce and Steve to see my show. Afterward they came back to see me, and we stayed friends all these years.
5 When you sang with Bruce and the E Street Band at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden, he fell to his knees in a show of reverence.
We sang “My Boy.” I didn’t know it was one of his favorite songs. All I can say is that it was such a joy to sing with him. He really believes in that wall of sound, even when he’s on the stage all by himself. He wants everyone up there with him. Singing live with him was one of the great things you can do in life. The music is so alive.
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