IN Conversation with Darlene Love

Darlene Love

Ever since Darlene Love burst on the music scene in the early 60s, her powerhouse pipes have graced countless arenas and amphitheaters. In fact, The New York Times once described the singer as having a “thunderbolt voice.” (We love that description.)

Best known for a slew of hits alongside Phil Spector, Love has also appeared in numerous films and on countless soundtracks. Her seasonal classic, (Christmas) Baby Please Come Home, is a now-iconic, holiday staple.

The Grammy-award winner is back on tour this year and she’s headed to Midwest Trust Center’s Yardley Hall on November 6th for an evening of bring-the-house-down hits. We caught up with Love to talk about getting back on the road, her recent 80th birthday blowout, and what tunes are currently shuffling on her iPod. 

You just celebrated your 80th birthday. Please tell me you had an epic party.
I did something unbelievable. I worked on my birthday at a new winery in Manhattan. It was a huge event. I invited Paul Shaffer and Stevie Van Zandt and a few other people to come to the show. It was actually my first big, big show that I’ve done since the pandemic. I lost my mind—and did 90 minutes. Usually, I just do 60 minutes!

That’s ambitious!
Yes, we lost control. Paul came up on stage and played with me. And there were a lot of wonderful people who called in on video to wish me happy birthday.

And then the next day, I had my children from California and my husband’s children from Jamaica and we had a huge barbecue in my backyard. We had an unbelievable birthday party. We started around one o’clock and ended somewhere around 11. It was worth every minute—even though my husband and I paid for it. I think we sat around for, like, a week not doing anything. [Laughs] I’ll remember that one for a while. 

You’re back on the road this year—how does it feel? Was 2020 a little too quiet?
It was, but you know what? You have to tell yourself this is what it is and make the best of it. Keep everybody safe, keep yourself safe.  

I have to thank God for my publicist who kept me busy on Zoom having talks with my fans. I actually had a couple of dinners with them and a wine drinking contest. The only thing we really did was a pay-per-view Christmas show because everybody looks forward to that. It worked out great. It got me back in the mood. I’m really ready to go back to work now, that’s for sure!

Tickets just went on sale for your upcoming show at Yardley Hall on November 6th. What should guests expect?
It’s everything they want to hear because I believe in doing all the hits. I don’t believe in doing a medley, I believe in doing the whole song. I tell my fans the reason why I do that is because I know you want to hear them. Well, and because when we recorded these songs back in the 60s, they were only like a minute and a half long. You could do 20 minutes and do all your hits. [Laughs] We make them a little longer, maybe an extra verse or extra chorus. It works out great. 

And I always put a gospel number in my show because I’m so thankful and grateful to God for keeping me strong and healthy all these years. And to carry out this gift I believe God has given me. We’re going have a lot of fun.

Amen. I have to ask—what’s on Darlene Love’s iPod? What have you been listening to lately?
I’m a gospel lover and I keep a lot of gospel on my iPod that I listen to. I also keep a lot of old songs on my iPod. I’m an Aretha Franklin fan. I keep Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross because I love their music. When I listen to music, I don’t want to jump around, I just want to sit back and listen to it.

What are your thoughts on Kansas City? I’m guessing you’ve been here before?
There are very few states I’ve never been to in the last 50 years. I thought I covered them all, but, you know what? I’ve never been to Kansas City! It’s the last one I’ve never been to and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m coming! I’ve heard a lot about it, but I’ve never actually planted my body there.

And when I come to town, I always ask the stage people where the good barbecue places are and they can always point me in the right direction, so I’m looking forward to that.

Darlene Love plays Grace in The Christmas Chronicles: Part 2, starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. (Netflix)

If you were a betting woman, how many times do you think you’ve sung Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)?
Oh, my God. I’ll tell you one thing; I sang it every year on The David Letterman Show for 28 years. Count that! It only goes in my show at Christmas time. From February to November, I don’t do my Christmas songs. I’m not a betting person, but I’ll bet over 200 times.

That number seems low. Really low.
That’s why I don’t bet.

Is there anyone you’re simply dying to duet with?
There’s always been one—and I’ve never met her. I’ve always wanted to work with Barbra Streisand. She is my favorite. I always wanted to sing with Aretha and Elvis and I’ve worked with all those people, but somehow Barbra Streisand and my path have never crossed. One of these days, one of these days …

Finally, what’s a fun fact nobody knows about you? A nugget you simply must share.
Hmmm, that’s an interesting one. I’ve told everything there is to tell. My husband says I am not a refrigerator because I don’t keep nothin’. Well, my fans probably don’t know this because they never see what goes on backstage, but fifteen minutes before showtime, I make my musicians, sound people, guests, anybody who has anything to do with my show, we form a circle, and we pray a prayer for safety. 

I was working for Cher as a backup singer many years ago and I started doing that with just three people. And I would always say a little prayer for Cher. Somebody heard me and told her. And she asked if she could be in my prayer circle. When everybody found out that’s what we do, the whole room joined in that group. It got larger and larger and larger.

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