Born Darlene Wright on July 26, 1941, the great Darlene Love has had one of the more unusual careers in pop and soul music. A minister’s daughter, Love spent her early years in Los Angeles singing in her father’s church, before heading off on her own to sing with a group called The Blossoms. The producer Phil Spector hired The Blossoms for some recording sessions, to provide backup vocals on songs by bigger-name artists on his record label.
Spector also asked Love to sing on a session that yielded the classic single “He’s a Rebel,” but when the song was released, it was credited to another group he produced, The Crystals. Love was not happy; The Crystals were not happy; Spector did not care. He released the song with Love’s vocal and everyone involved watched it hit the top of the Billboard pop singles chart.
Love signed a recording contract with Spector and went into the studio to record “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” - a surefire hit debut, right? Wrong - he once again credited the song to The Crystals, and once again the odd situation yielded a hit record.
Eventually, Spector would release Darlene Love singles under the name Darlene Love, including classics like “Today I Met the Boy I’m Going to Marry.”
Love continued working with Spector, most notably on his classic Christmas album (more about that in a moment) and on singles as a member of The Blossoms. The group were first-call background vocalists, playing with Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson and Aretha Franklin, to name a few. They were also among the background voices on Ike and Tina Turner’s monumental single “River Deep - Mountain High.”
But Darlene Love’s most popular song is inarguably “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” a holiday staple produced by Spector for his album A Christmas Gift for You, which featured artists in his production stable like Love, the Ronettes, the Crystals and others. The song's descending melody and dense “Wall of Sound” production sound wonderful coming out of the radio, which the song has for decades. There have been many covers of "Christmas," but there is only one original, and that’s Darlene Love’s.
By the mid-’60, Love and the Blossoms had moved on from Phil Spector and continued singing on both their own songs and (more often) songs by others. Love left the group in 1974, striking out on her own as a singer and actress.
BONUS: In 1986, David Letterman invited Love onto his program to sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” and he repeated that invitation annually for 29 years. Here’s one of the best performances, from 2013: