July 26: Darlene Love

Darlene LoveAt this year’s Oscar ceremony, you may recall that the trophy for Best Documentary went to a film called Twenty Feet From Stardom. The film is a fantastic look at the careers of rock and pop backing singers, including Merry Clayton (who performed the amazing female vocals on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimmme Shelter”) and Darlene Love, who spontaneously broke out into song on the Oscar stage after the film won. Love is one of the greatest voices in the history of pop music, and it just happens that she was born today in 1941.

In the 1960s, Love was a respected backing singer and a member of uber-producer Phil Spector’s regular troupe of musicians. Of course, as anyone familiar with Spector knows, working for Spector also meant frequently getting screwed over by him. Love made frequent attempts to break out as a star, but these were usually derailed by Spector. Her biggest hit was the now classic contemporary Christmas carol “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” but most of her best work was attributed to others. Spector had a nasty habit of taking the recordings Love made and crediting them to his more popular acts. If you’ve ever heard the version of “He’s A Rebel” attributed to the Crystals, you were actually listening to Love’s group the Blossoms.

Needless to say, this chicanery did not sit well with Love. When she tried to embark on a solo career in the early 1970s, she signed with Philadelphia’s up-and-coming production and songwriting team Gamble & Huff. Unfortunately, after a brief period with Gamble & Huff, Love’s contract was traded back to Spector, who at this time had become even more of a sadistic drugged out megalomaniacal bastard. At this point, Love effectively retired rather than work with Spector again.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that Love would finally get her career going again, largely thanks to musicians who had grown up listening to the records she was featured on; like Bruce Springsteen compatriot Steven Van Zandt. Since then, Love has stayed in the public eye by acting and singing on stage and in film, and since 1986 has made an annual appearance on David Letterman’s talk shows to perform her signature Yuletide hit, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” In 2011, Love finally took her place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I could think of no better cocktail to honor the real singer of “He’s A Rebel” than the Rebel Yell. It’s a solid mix of bourbon, citrus and egg whites.

Rebel Yell

  • 2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce Triple Sec
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 egg white

Shake well with ice, and strain in to an old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange slice.

Tomorrow: What’s up, Doc?

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