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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Exclusive Q&A with LaLa Brooks of The Crystals

Delores "LaLa" Brooks possesses an amazing voice and the versatility of it is evident on her terrific new solo album on the independent Norton Records release, All or Nothing. I recently reviewed it on this blog:

When you're listening to Phil Spector's pop classics with The Crystals, like "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me," you are listening to LaLa.

LaLa now resides in the East Village and still performs live. (She has a dynamic on-stage presence.) Time has only strengthened and brought new shading, richness and style to her voice.

Dj Buddy Beaverhausen:  LaLa, this is truly a pleasure and a privilege to interview you. You have been an  iconic voice since I was a kid growing up in Paterson, NJ (and you  weren't much older than me at the time, actually). Where did your amazing voice come from? I mean, was it raw talent or did you have any formal singing lessons?  
LaLa Brooks: No, it's just raw talent. No singing lessons.

DBB: You began your professional career with The Crystals. How did you come together as a group? 
LLB: Barbara Alston's cousin, Benny Wells started the group. The Crystals came from Patsy Wright's neice. Patsy was an original member. I was asked to join the group.

DBB: Let's discuss your new album, All or Nothing, on Norton Records, if you don't mind. I was blown away by it. Obviously a labor of love. How does it feel to have a new solo album released? 
LLB: It feels great having a solo album after all this time. The greatest reward is that everyone has accepted it so well.
DBB: You just got back from touring in Spain. What was that experience like? 
LLB: Spain was wonderful. They really cherish older music and appreciate the older artists.

DBB: Your mom was Native American, your dad African-American. Did you feel  "different" growing up in the 1950s and '60s? And did that affect you as a singer in any way? 
LLB: No, not really. My mom made it a point to raise us without any prejudice.

DBB: All or Nothing displays your range and your vocal diversity. How involved were you in the selection of songs?  
LLB: I wasn't involved in the selection of the songs. I was more involved in how they were recorded and how I wanted  my voice to sound on each of the songs.

DBB:  I'm very excited you're coming back to The Cutting Room in February.  Five years ago, I saw you at its old location and you were amazing. I hope you will be doing live versions of the songs from All or Nothing. And, by the way, we bumped into each other at the old Cutting Room when  I stepped out of the men's room & you came out from the dressing  room (or backstage) and I gushed. I was just so excited you were back on  the scene. How do you deal with fawning fans? 
LLB: I try to make the fans feel as relaxed as possible. The main thing is, I'm sort of overwhelmed that they accept me and so I try to be as humble as possible. And I'm so glad that they appreciate me. I want them to know that they're special to me.

DBB: You were in the original cast of Hair. We'd love to hair -- I mean, hear -- about what that experience was like for you.  
LLB: It was crazy in a good way. The story of Hair opened my eyes to not judge people by the way that they look. It also made me feel more comfortable in my skin because I always liked to dress different, not traditional. It taught me to be a free spirit.

DBB: You got married, lived in Germany and London, and basically left the music industry for a while. What were those years like? 
LLB: Actually it was England first and then Austria. My years in Europe were a learning experience and I was introduced to other cultures and languages. I learned that Europeans are not as uptight as some of the Americans are.
DBB:  Phil Spector. We all want to know what it was like working with him. And were you shocked or surprised when he ended up in prison? 
LLB: It was a pleasure to work with Phil. I was a child who introduced to great music and great musicians who played in the studio with me. Yes, I was shocked when he ended up in prison.

DBB: La La, you were stupendous at that girl group fest at Damrosch Park at  Lincoln Center a couple of summers ago. You really rocked "River Deep,  Mountain High." Have you ever considered recording it, because it was so  outstanding?  
LLB: No, I never thought about recording it. I was frightened to death about doing it. People don't know that Darlene Love was supposed to have been on that show. The producer was trying to have her, Ronnie Spector and me as the show's headliners. I was supposed to do my songs only. But when Darlene canceled, the producer called and asked if I would do "River Deep." I asked that if I were to mess the song up during rehearsals, would they eliminate it from the show. But when the rehearsal went well, and I had some encouragement from the band, I just went for it! I'm glad I got through it.

DBB: As the dance music Promoter at Queens Our City internet radio, it behooves me to ask you how is it that your fabulous diva vocals never fronted a disco or dance music number. Would you consider it if the right  producer were to ask you? 
LLB: I sure would!

DBB: La La, it is truly special to be doing this interview with you. Happy New Year to you and your family.  Any last shout outs to your fans? 
LLB: I shout out to all my fans, "I'm for real and love all of you. Have a blessed and Happy New Year."

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