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Singer Darlene Love sang backup for hit artists including Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin but struggled to gain fame for her solo endeavors.
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Through it all, Love remained a mainstay of The Blossoms' ever-changing lineup, but the group never became a household name.
Perhaps one reason why Love never attained individual fame could be found in the adaptable nature of her talent; she had a rare ability to match the voicing and style of whatever artist she was backing. "We didn't try to change the artists' sounds,
" she said. "We tried to sound exactly like they did. Background singers who are any good have to be great imitators."
The strange story of "He's a Rebel" is perhaps the most poignant example of how Love lost her chance at stardom. The song was meant to be performed by The Crystals and backed by The Blossoms, but The Crystals were out of town at the time the song was ready to be recorded. Spector did not want any other artists to beat him to the punch, so he had Love and The Blossoms record the entire song. He then released the single under The Crystals, hoping to capitalize on that act's wider reputation. The record shot up the charts, peaking at No. 11; no one was the wiser that The Crystals' big new hit had really been sung by a completely different group. Love remains, paradoxically, one of the most recognizable yet anonymous voices of the 1960s.
By 1963, Love grew frustrated with giving her beautiful voice away under other artists' names and convinced Spector to release a spate of singles, including "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry," "A Fine, Fine Boy" and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." But the huge demand for her backup singing kept her too preoccupied to aggressively pursue a solo effort. At times she also encountered almost ridiculously bad luck. Her catchy single "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was released just two weeks before the John F. Kennedy assassination and then virtually disappeared from the airwaves, as only somber music was allowed on the radio that holiday season. Undaunted, Love continued to promote the song, and it eventually became almost synonymous with holiday music. In recent years, she has performed it every year on Late Night With David Letterman. "It's so wonderful," she says, "to have people come up to me and tell me they do not feel it's the holidays until they have heard me sing 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).'
The Blossoms continued to record throughout the 1960s, appearing weekly on a television show called Shindig! on which they performed covers of the big hits of the day. The Blossoms eventually released their only album, Shockwave, in 1972. The record, a compilation of all the group's best-known songs from the 1960s, included only one track—"Son-In-Law" (1961) —that had cracked the Top 100 on its initial release, and Shockwave too failed to chart.
In the 1970s, as musical tastes evolved away from the 1960s girl group sound, Love's career lagged. Her biggest song of the era was 1975's "Lord, If You're a Woman," recorded with Phil Spector, but it did not chart.
By 1981, despite her decades-long career, Love was forced to clean houses in Beverly Hills to make ends meet.
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American society experienced a revolution in the late 1960s and early 70s, especially for African-Americans and women. Janis Joplin was the finest white blues singer of her generation; female singer-songwriters like Carole King and Joni Mitchell shared their innermost thoughts and feelings; Aretha Franklin emerged as the Queen of Soul; and Bonnie Raitt established herself as both a strong vocalist and a brilliant guitarist. Through their music, the women of this era created the soundtrack of social progress.
Influential Female Musicians of the 1960s 17 people in this group
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