Darlene Love, Singer of Many Phil Spector Classics, Remembers: ‘He Wanted to Control My Talent’
“You know, the whole thing was like a bad marriage,” Darlene Love says. “It’s a marriage that was abusive — not just physically, but mentally. That’s what Phil was trying to do with me. He wanted to control not Darlene, but the talent.”
Darlene Love, who sang many of Phil Spector’s greatest songs but also saw her career effectively sabotaged by the infamously unstable producer, remembered her problematic relationship with him to Variety on Sunday. Spector died early Sunday, aged 81 and serving a 19-year-to-life prison sentence for murder, from a coronavirus-related illness.
“Things changed for the good as far as me being a record artist,” Love recalled. Her powerful voice drove one of Spector’s early classic hits, “He’s a Rebel,” and Love was signed to his label Philles Records. However, while she describes him as a “fun-loving guy” at the time, his controlling nature showed itself almost immediately: While she sang many of his hits — including several tracks on his classic 1963 Christmas album — Spector buried her name, releasing the songs under a variety of different group names like Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, and sent a different lineup of the Crystals on tour without her. She was also relegated to backing vocals on many other Spector hits with lead vocals by unquestionably inferior singers.
“The problem I have with Phil is that he wanted to control Darlene’s Love talent,” say says. “If he couldn’t do that, he was going to do everything in his power to keep my talent from shining. He made me. ‘I discovered her.’”
Using his control of the copyrights, Spector effectively blocked Love from singing the songs on which she’d built her career. So she “started over again. I was determined to be an entertainer.”
Love has gone on to a successful career without him, as a successful lead and backing singer and actress, including roles on Broadway.
“Once I moved to New York [in 1983], I thought I was done with Phil. I had a wonderful husband and life was great. I met Paul Schaffer and he got me on “The Late Show with David Letterman,’” she says. “[Spector] didn’t control me anymore, and that’s what I left in California. I didn’t have to think about him anymore.”
Love sued Spector in 1993 for unpaid royalties and won. She won a Grammy Award in 2015 for her role in “20 Feet From Stardom,” a documentary film about her and many other widely recognized but often-overlooked singers.
Love heard about Spector’s passing from her son on Sunday morning. Having had a few hours to digest the news, she says, “I felt this is very sad. I didn’t think of hate. I didn’t think, ‘He deserved it or this should have happened.’ I just felt this was a sad way for him to leave this earth.
“The more I thought about it, the sadder I got,” she concludes. “He changed the sound of rock n’ roll — Steve Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen and Elton John all told me that.”