You might not have known Darlene Love's name yesterday, but you definitely do now. The 20 Feet from Stardom singer and actress burst into song – specifically, the gospel track "His Eye on the Sparrow" – as her film's team took the stage to accept the Oscar for Best Documentary. It was a scene-stealing moment of pure spontaneity in an otherwise pretty boring award show (some are already calling the Ellen DeGeneres-hosted ceremony a "self-involved flop") and got everyone in film talking about Darlene Love – which must make it all the sweeter for star of 20 Feet from Stardom, a film that follows the greatest and most under-recognised backup singers of the music industry.
So, just who is Darlene Love? You can hear her voice on The Crystals hits "He's a Rebel" and "He's Sure the Boy I Love" and songs such as "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)". Scouted by then-newbie producer Phil Spector when she was 19, Love was promised stardom and fame. In fact, the original recording of "He's A Rebel" is all thanks to Love – Spector initially recorded the track with her all-girl band, The Blossoms, and then, much to her dismay, rush-released it under The Crystals' name. It later reached number one on the charts and became Spector's most definitive hit.
In an interview with Dazed, Love talks about working with Spector, their subsequent fall-out, her 20-year career as soul-pop's underrecognised star and her final triumph: being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Tom Waits, Dr. John and Alice Cooper. "It took so long to get where I am today – that’s like the movie 20 Feet from Stardom, but it took over 20 years!" she laughs.
And in case you were wondering: Darlene Love has always been a show-stealer. Back in 1968, she came close to stealing Elvis Presley's heart, but turned him down in spectacular fashion. In Presley's final film Change of Habit, Bubba himself invited her into his trailer.
In her own words: "(Elvis) said, ‘Well, I’ve had this thing on my mind for a while. You know, I’ve never had a relationship with a black woman.’ Before he could say anything else, I said, ‘...And you ain’t getting ready to have one with this one either!’ We both fell out laughing. That truly was a pass.”
Nice one, Love. You can read her full interview with Dazed here.
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing