Singer Darlene Love spent much of her career providing powerful background vocals on classic records by producer Phil Spector and onstage with Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones. But at 74, she’s ready for her close-up, thanks to buzz from appearing in the Oscar-winning 2013 documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. On Sept. 18, Love is releasing her new studio album Introducing Darlene Love (Wicked Cool/Columbia), produced by Steven Van Zandt and featuring new songs penned by Springsteen and Elvis Costello.
Introducing Darlene Love is your first studio album in 17 years. Do you really feel like you’re meeting audiences for the first time?
Yes, I do. Even if they heard me sing on [The Crystals’] “Da Doo Ron Ron” or “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” Phil didn’t want me to sound grown, so he would speed the record up to make my voice sound younger. But Steven didn’t want that: He wanted them to hear all my power, all that I have in me.
How has Spector’s legacy been affected by him being a convicted murderer?
I don’t think he is going to be remembered for what he did for the music industry. That’s really unfortunate, because I thought Phil was one of the great ones. He’s going to die in prison, and that really is sad. Because of Phil, I am who I am.
Of all the people you worked with in the ’60s, who was your favorite?
Elvis Presley. We became immediate friends because of our gospel background. Every time we took a break, he’d get his guitar and say, “Come on, Darlene!” He knew a lot of the old hymns. It really brought us close together.
If your career was starting today, how do you think it would go?
Child, I wouldn’t be comfortable if people were looking more at what I have on than how I’m sounding. I came up in a good time, because people were paying attention to whether or not you could really sing.