Once described by The New York Times as “embedded in the history or rock and roll as Eric Clapton’s guitar and Bob Dylan’s lyrics” Darlene Love is a national-and holiday-institution. Once described by Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Van Zandt as (along with music impresario Phil Spector) as the woman who “started rock n’ roll”, Love is not letting the pandemic slow down her holiday cheer. While her holiday tour has been shelved for the season, she was excited when Sony Hall presented her with the opportunity to offer Love For The Holidays digitally to her legion of fans. Ms. Love recorded the show with her full band and background singers earlier this month, taking all necessary precautions. The venue was thoroughly sanitized, with all band members, singers, and even Darlene’s backstage glam squad wearing masks and practicing strict social distancing. We all could “use a little Christmas” so I sat down for an exclusive chat with Ms. Love to discuss the current holiday season, how she became known as the ‘Queen of Christmas’, and what fellow musical icon gave her the advice that she carries with her.
Michael Cook: The holidays must be very different ‘The Queen of Christmas’ this year, is that safe to say?
Darlene Love: It’s a little different one, that’s for sure. Usually I am out on the road traveling, and the promotions would have been done by now. Now I have to promote what seems like the whole month of December (laughs)! Lots of it is done on the phone and on Zoom though. A lot of it this year was performing and making the video for the fans. I think the biggest reason that it was so hard on me physically was because I haven’t sang in almost a year. It doesn’t dawn on you, even though I have a very strong voice, am healthy, and am in great shape, the muscle in your throat is like anything else; you have to work it. The project came out really great and it was beautiful to do it.
MC: Why do you think that it was important for you to not miss a year? You have come to represent the holiday season for all of us, so why was it crucial to you not to skip this year?
DL: For that one reason; and for me too. I so enjoy singing for everyone at Christmas time. Most of the Christmas songs also have a message, a wonderful message. I miss being around my fans and hearing them say “Christmas doesn’t start until we hear Darlene Love sing ‘Christmas Baby’..”That’s the only time they actually get to hear me do ‘Christmas Baby Please Come Home’, through the month of December, although this year I will go through to the end of January because they want me to sing it again. They don’t get to see me on the David Letterman show any more, but they get to se me on The View although it might not be the same.
MC: Your annual appearances on The View to perform have in their own way, become a brand new holiday tradition.
DL: You know, it is starting to get a little closer and closer every year. The fans all say “we’ll be watching you on The View”. I think it is slowly but surely, taking over. This would have been the sixth year that I would be doing it live.
MC: Between ‘Christmas Baby Please Come Home’ and ‘All Alone On Christmas’, you are truly the defining artist that we identify with Christmas. Has Christmas season always been a time that you absolutely love?
DL: Oh yeah. A lot of people may not know this, but my father was a minister and he had his own church. When you have five children, they are everything in the church. Christmas is always special for the five children, and our parents made it special for us. We did Christmas programs, and we went through the neighborhoods singing Christmas carols. As we got grown, we really loved doing that. Quite naturally, when I had the hit with Christmas Baby Please Come Home, I said to myself “I’m going to keep this going”.
Along comes Paul Schaffer when we were doing a show called Leader of the Pack. He invited David Letterman down to see the show because he was playing Phil Spector in the show. David came to see the show and the next night on his show he declared “we need to get that girl on the show, that’s the greatest Christmas song I’ve ever heard”. I actually told David that; I told him “you know, you’re the reason I’m the Queen of Christmas, you dubbed me the Queen of Christmas after twenty-eight years in a row I sung that song on the show”. When I first started doing Christmas shows there were not a lot. I think I was probably one of the very few p[eople that were doing Christmas shows actually. would do New York City, Asbury Park NJ, and a few other places in New Jersey and that was about it. The more I did the David Letterman show, the more people wanted to see me perform. I actually really miss performing, I really do.
MC: We got to see you perform on-screen on stage this year in The Christmas Chronicles Part Two. Who could not love Darlene Love with Goldie Hawn?
DL:(laughs) Wasn’t it great?..that’s my girl! It was great, for the last three years in a row I have done a Christmas movie without even realizing it. I played the aunt in Holiday Rush, and now it’s like I’m starting a new trend; movies at Chrismas time too? You never know, they might be doing a Christmas Chronicles Part Three, they’re already talking about it. People are saying “you just need to let Darlene Love sing more”!
MC: You mentioned Paul Schaffer and he, along with legendary artists like Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt include you as one of the few ladies “invited to the party”, similar to how Liza Minnelli and Shirley MacLaine used to play with the legendary Rat Pack.
DL: That is so true, because Stevie and Bruce have both said, as far as they’re concerned, Phil Spector and Darlene Love started rock n roll, as far as the way Phil Spector did so many of those records, A lot of the records that we did were done by the same musicians, the same singers, so Phil Spector designed all of that for a reason. His rhythm tracks, Stevie and Bruce, that is the only way that they will record, there is a lot of percussion in their songs. That is exacly what Phil did. They said that they used to lay down and listen to our records to get himself going and get his juices going. It’s like “wow”!
For me to be a part of that at such an early part of my life…Right after Phil Spector, I moved to New York and Steve and I became great friends. I’m not as close to Bruce as I am to Stevie, but we’re all that little group all the time. Bruce Springsteen is the one that invited me to be on the stage with them when they did the 25th Anniversary of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. It was like “are you kidding”!?
MC: You have worked with almost everyone and have had so many amazing experiences during your career. What is the best advice that you think you have gotten during your own career?
DL: You know, I tell people all the time I have worked with Dionne Warwick for over ten years as her backup singer. We became good friends along with her sons, and my sons, we both had boys; I had three and she had two. I was so angry one time at a session that we were getting ready to go, I mean I was livid. Holland-Doziier-Holland had put out a record, it was mine and we did not sign with them, but they kept it and put it out under another groups name. For no reason whatsoever except that they thought they were going to get away with it and nobody was going to say anything. Now we had to do a session with them.
Dionne was working with them and they were the producers of the record. I told Dionne “the only way I am going I there, I am going in there with you. I can’t take it.” She looked at me and grabbed my face and she said “never give anybody that kind of power over you. Don’t let anyone make you that angry and that mad. Because you are the one that has the control; don’t do it”. I have lived by that rule for so many years, don’t give anybody take your space, your time, give them your energy to be that upset. I have kept that as long as I have lived; and people don’t understand it. They don’t understand how you can do that, but you are in the one who is in control, not them.
MC: I opened the paper yesterday and I never thought that I would see Darlene Love and OnlyFans in the same headline. Here we are though…
DL: Here we are right? (laughs). My publicist at Project Publicity is crazy and he can come up with some ideas! We have been together for about fifteen years and I have never had a publicist for that long. I have been able to work so I can afford a publicist and they are a lifeline. When I didn’t have any work, they would get busy and call people and get me involved with things, getting my name out there. He had my name on Page Six like I owned it. (laughs).
MC: Artists doing things like OnlyFans and virtual shows are a completely different way of reaching audiences, and that most likely never would have happened had it not been for the pandemic.
DL: That is so true. My publicist is the one that said “ok lets do a Live on Facebook”. I did several of them, and you would not believe the mail that we got from them. They came up with the idea that we should have lunch with my friends, let’s celebrate Mother’s Day, all of those wonderful ideas. It’s a different time and a different place and people have to come up with their own ideas on how to do things today.
MC: Everyone celebrates so much about Darlene Love; what do you celebrate the most about yourself?
DL You know what I celebrate the most? I am so grateful to God that he gave me this gift. I don’t say, I am the greatest, I can do this, I can do that. I celebrate the gift that God has given me. I will be eighty years old next year honey and I am still using the gift that God has given me. I can’t even really take credit for it excecpt that I get up every day at 5am to work out (laughs)!
Darlene Love’s digital Christmas Show “Love For The Holidays” from Sony Hall that premiere on Saturday, Dec 5th at 8pm and is available On Demand through Christmas Day. For tickets visit www.SonyHall.com
“The Christmas Chronicles Part 2” is streaming now on Netflix