People often ask me what music do I listen to whether it's for inspiration for my fiction writing or while I'm working out at the gym. They're surprised when I take off my headphones and let them listen.
"He's A Rebel?" my sister asked me the other day in her Mini while we drove to her gym in South Beach for a workout.
"Yeah, I'm a big Darlene Love fan," I replied, grooving in my seat to the beat.
Also on my iPod, Love's "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry."
I love Darlene Love. (and country music but that's a separate blog entry)
Love was part of the 60s wave of pop girl groups led by music producer Phil Spector. Her vocal character - a smooth but powerful voice - has carried on through the decades. Each year, for the holidays, she performs "Christmas, Baby Please Come Home" on CBS' Late Night with David Letterman. Her music is infectious with feel-good pop hooks. She made a name for herself before Auto-Tune synthesized pop singers' voices, making them indistinguishable to a degree.
Love's music reminds of a time (well, before my time. I wasn't born when these songs were popular) of soft melodies that grab a hold of you and gently command you to sing along. The songs stay with you after they play and I can guarantee they will mostly likely put you in a good or better mood. (Which is probably why many of her songs have been used in teen and twenty-something romantic comedies.)
Her music provides a great soundtrack when I hike (in Boston's Blue Hills), run (in Miami) or simply lift weights (both cities). But the songs also inspire me to write scenes when I have a character meeting a potential love interest for the first time and the romance that ensues. The music sets the mood.
Once, I did meet and interview Darlene Love in Fort Lauderdale where I was a young general assignment reporter at The Miami Herald. Besides writing about the hard news of the day (shootings, accidents, robberies, drownings, plane crashes, etc), I looked forward to writing the daily news feature. On this Friday morning, Darlene Love was visiting an urban high school to share her story - her early struggles as a singer, big national stardom which was followed by days toiling away as a maid while listening to her own music on the radio until how she found the confidence to regain her musical footing once again.
I vividly remember that morning of her school visit. A lot of the kids didn't know who she was until she casually mentioned that she played Danny Glover's wife in the Lethal Weapon movies. Then the class cheered, ready to hear anything she had to say - or sing. (She serenaded everyone with her version of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" - another 60s song that I like along with "Then He Kissed Me" by The Crystals, the group Love had performed with. (That song is featured in the opening scene of "Adventures in Babysitting" when Elizabeth Shue dances and sings as she gets ready for a date.) Perhaps I was born in the wrong era because this music has always appealed to me so much. It's what I work out to in Boston while the latest frenetic boom-boom-boom dance music jams overhead.
I am posting my Darlene Love-school-visit article here for you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy humming to one of her classics in my Jeep or at the gym.
The Miami Herald
March 13, 1999
SINGER'S UPBEAT TALE INSPIRES DILLARD KIDS
Author: JOHNNY DIAZ, Herald Staff Writer
If you asked a Dillard High School student Friday morning about Darlene Love, many stopped, stared and scratched their heads.
Asked that same question later that afternoon, they answered: ``She sang He's a Rebel,'' or ``She was Danny Glover's wife in the Lethal Weapon movies.''
But most of all, they said, ``She's an inspiration.''
Love visited the school Friday, hoping to inspire students to pursue their passions as she describes in her newly released memoir, My Name Is Love: The Darlene Love Story.
The book details how Love soared like a shooting star with such classic tunes as He's a Rebel and the Da Doo Ron Ron, as well as singing background vocals for Sam Cooke, Gene Autry, Dionne Warwick, Elvis Presley, Cher and dozens of others.
The book also describes her disappearance from the limelight. As singing work faded for her, she turned to working as a maid to make a living.
She told the students how those experiences and her resiliency helped her craft a comeback as a singer, actress and author.
``Your own spirit is going to have to motivate you,'' she said to groups of students taking part in Novel Day for Students, an annual literary event sponsored by the Broward Public Library Foundation that brings authors to students. ``You have to strive to be the best at what you are doing and you can't let anyone turn you around.''
Love's life has had its turns in the past 40 years.
Although Love was the voice behind some hits, she never got the credit for the tunes and her career as a soloist never took off.
The bits of song work she did land slowed to a trickle then stopped.
She found herself cleaning homes - where she had rubbed elbows with celebrities years before - to make ends meet. At one home while she was cleaning, she heard one of her songs on the radio. ``I knew that was a sign. I still knew I could sing,'' she said.
With a little help from Dionne Warwick and a lot of determination, Love returned to singing and began acting, with the role as Danny Glover's wife in Lethal Weapon.
At 57, she has recorded her first gospel album, Unconditional Love (Harmony Records/Sony), and has been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
The students said Love showered them with inspiration.
``She taught us about not giving up and how we should feel good about ourselves,'' said Vincent Collins III, 18, of Lauderhill.
Said 15-year-old Chenika Jackson: ``With every bad thing, there is a good thing. You just have to keeping working for your goals.''