Singer Darlene Love, 74, (“He’s a Rebel”) appeared in the 2013 documentary “20 Feet from Stardom.” Her new album is “Introducing Darlene Love” (Columbia). She spoke with Marc Myers.
My family moved from Los Angeles to San Antonio in 1951, when I was 13. My father was a minister and was sent there to lead a congregation. Three years later I heard Roy Hamilton’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” a song that has stayed with me ever since.
I didn’t want to move. I liked L.A., and it was certainly better than San Antonio, which was strictly segregated then. You had to go to the back of everything and only shop where you were supposed to—or else. I spent most of my time singing at my father’s church.
I first heard Hamilton’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” on the local black radio station in 1954. His version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein song, from the Broadway show “Carousel,” went to No. 1 on the R&B chart and then crossed over to the pop chart. The record made him a star.
Hearing Hamilton’s smooth voice was a breath of fresh air. Rock ’n’ roll was not allowed in our home. My father called it “whirly music,” so I had to listen to it at my girlfriend’s house. But Hamilton was different—he was a black pop singer. His voice was smooth and strong, and, though it wasn’t seductive or anything, his spirit and conviction got to me.