Most superstars would admit, that there is no way they would have made it where they are without the help of others. The documentary 20 Feet from Stardom (opening today) is a tribute to these others. But more than that, it paints a revealing picture of a profession, pointing the spotlight on those who live their entire careers just outside of it.
Chock-full of interviews with big stars like Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger and more, 20 Feet from Stardom tells us the history and the role of the back-up singer. From the opening minutes of the film, we know that it will be much more than a rock-doc, as we learn the serious racial and social issues that play into the profession as well.
Well-known inside the industry but unknown to most everyone else, the film profiles the likes of Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Claudia Lennear and Tata Vega – amongst others – back-up singers who are all talented enough to be stars in their own right. Why haven’t any of them become stars? The stories vary, but they are all woman of color who have been kept under wraps, in one way or another, throughout the years.
These talented Black women have been used to “soul” up the likes of singers such as David Bowie and Joe Cocker. It’s hard to believe, but did you know that a vast majority of radio hits over the past half-century have featured only a handful of the same back-up singers?
The documentary is insightful and contains a number of eye-opening revelations when you learn that the same voices have been present on so many popular tracks spreading over several musical genres. Somehow, 20 Feet from Stardom is even inspirational. It takes a real selfless individual, with an understanding of what teamwork really is, to live the unpopular life of a back-up artist. The film does a good job in chronicling their struggles while also celebrating the mastery of their profession.
These folks might be steps away from the spotlight, but their stories as told in 20 Feet of Stardom shine just as bright.
Genre: Documentary, Music
Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated PG-13
Featuring: Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Sheryl Crow, Claudia Lennear, Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Bette Midler
Directed by Morgan Neville (Troubadours, Johnny Cash’s America)
Opens locally on Friday, July 5, 2013 (check for show times).
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