Darlene Love brings powerhouse pipes to the PAC

Sunday January 27, 2019

Powerhouse vocalist Darlene Love will take the stage of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 16, for a concert featuring selections from her extraordinary five-decade career. The performance is part of the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture’s 2018-19 MIAC Live Series.

Rolling Stone has called Love “one of the greatest singers of all time,” while the New York Times professed that her “thunderbolt voice is as embedded in the history of rock and roll as Eric Clapton's guitar or Bob Dylan's lyrics.”

While Love’s vocal prowess rivals such rock titans, she has spent much of her career working in relative anonymity while backing up other stars.

Love, whose birth name is Darlene Wright, was steeped in the gospel music tradition introduced to her by her minister father. While in high school, she joined the Blossoms, an established vocal group whose background work with actor James Darren attracted the attention of legendary music producer Phil Spector. It was Spector who suggested the name Darlene Love.

In addition to using Love and the Blossoms as surrogates on two Crystals classics (“He’s a Rebel” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love”), Spector made her a member—along with co-lead vocalist Bobby Sheen—of Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. Their sultry rendition of the Disney classic “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” made the Top Ten in 1963. That same year, Love released a set of three Spector-produced Top Forty hits under her own name: “(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry,” “Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home” and “A Fine, Fine Boy.”

Love also debuted the iconic seasonal standard “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” in 1963. While missing the singles charts, the track owns the distinction of being the only original number on Spector’s classic album A Christmas Gift for You. Love’s rendition of the song would enjoy an even longer stay in the public’s consciousness thanks to her annual performance for 29 years on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Love formed a primary association during the 1970s with Dionne Warwick, whom she backed on record and on tour. She also sang on the Warwick-hosted TV show Solid Gold, which debuted in 1980. 

A roots-rock revival brought Love into the limelight during the eighties. In 1984, she starred in one of the first successful “jukebox musicals,” Leader of the Pack, which had extended runs at New York’s Bottom Line and on Broadway. She also did dramatic work, appearing in all three Lethal Weapon movies and a stage adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie.

In addition, the veteran singer began recording under her own name again. Her debut album as a solo artist, Paint Another Picture, appeared in 1988. A decade later, a gospel record, Unconditional Love, brought Love back to her roots in church music. She released three additional albums in the following years: It’s Christmas Of Course (2007), The Concert of Love (2010) and Introducing Darlene Love (2015).

Love received her industry’s highest honor in 2011 when Bette Midler inducted her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

She is also profiled in the 2013 Academy Award-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, which chronicles the behind-the-scenes lives of background singers. At the Oscars ceremony, Love sang her powerful acceptance speech on behalf of all performers in the film and was greeted with a standing ovation. A Grammy Award soon followed for the soundtrack of the film.

Tickets for Love’s concert are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors and $20 for students and youth 12 and younger. Tickets can be purchased at miac.mercyhurst.edu or by calling the box office at 814-824-3000.

This performance is sponsored by Christian Brothers Services, Rocket 105 FM and WSEE-The CW. The 2018-19 MIAC Live series is made possible through the generosity of Scott Enterprises, Cumulus Media and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.