Every day for three years, when Darlene Love stepped onto a Broadway stage to sing, she was transported to Baltimore — to the city of big hair and 1960s dance music — playing a teenager who gives dance lessons to a girl longing to be on the Corny Collins Show.
Tomorrow, her role in "Hairspray" long behind her, she comes to the city of Hon to host a live Maryland Public Television premiere of her new DVD, "Darlene Love: The Concert of Love."
For those who may not have grown up singing along on the radio to "He's sure the boy I am going to marry" or "Da Doo Ron Ron," Love was a voice behind many 1960s hits. She sang with the Blossoms, the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Dionne Warwick and Sonny and Cher. The fans, she said, still want to hear the old songs, no matter what new ones she can perform, and so the new DVD and CD are for them.
Her first trip to Baltimore, she said, was in 1964 when she came to do shows at a theater on Pennsylvania Avenue with Marvin Gay and the girl group, the Shirelles.
About to turn 70 years old, Love has been nominated three times to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and will finally be inducted on March 14. The moment, she said in an interview Sunday, will be "a big milestone in my life." In the past several years, her name has become more recognized, but she never stopped working. "It is really exciting because it is like starting all over as far as the public is concerned," she said.
Love, who grew up singing in the choir of the California church where her father was pastor, was plucked from high school to join the Blossoms, and the record producer and songwriter Phil Spector.
After singing throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she began acting, and her roles have included Trish Murtaugh, the wife of Danny Glover's character in all four "Lethal Weapon" movies, and the role of Motormouth Maybelle in the "Hairspray" Broadway production.
But throughout that period, she said, she has probably been best known for her 24 years of annual appearances on the David Letterman show to sing, "Christmas Baby Please Come Home." Each year, she said, those appearances "just got bigger and bigger" until they included a band and choir to back her up.
"That one song. It is amazing how we have pulled in more and more people every year to watch that show," she said.
Love looks far younger than 70, and she admits she has worked at it by going to the gym five days a week, drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day, taking frequent trips to the steam room, and taking care of her voice. She stopped smoking about 20 years ago and doesn't drink much.
Her voice, she said, is even stronger than it was 50 years ago when Spector forbade her to belt out the songs. She plans to continue singing as long as her voice and health allow her to.