Entertaining and uplifting, this Oscar-winning documentary tells the unknown story of the back-up singers who made classic records so memorable. Packed with lively, engaging people and fantastic music, the film also offers a sharp look at the music industry over the past 60 years in parallel with the fight for civil rights in America.
In the 1950s, background singers were usually white girls who read sheet-music perfectly. But they were quickly replaced with black artists who learned their craft in churches and could improvise harmonies with the lead singers. Suddenly, pop songs were infused with passion and life, as a handful of unknown singers performed backing vocals on virtually every classic hit since then. With their powerhouse voices and larger-than-life personalities, most have also tried to find success as solo artists. Others prefer to stay in the shadows.
For example, even though established stars acknowledge that she has more talent than any of them, Lisa Fischer prefers the quiet life out of the spotlight. Other belters like Merry Clayton, Tata Vega and Claudia Lennear can be heard on hundreds of timeless classics and are known throughout the industry, but never managed to get their solo careers off the ground. Judith Hill is a young artist who does soaring backing work while waiting for her own music to take off. And Darlene Love is the exception who managed both long background and solo careers.
Continue reading: 20 Feet From Stardom Review
There are many recognisable vocalists that have featured on some of the world's biggest duet singles, but often their voice is where the recognition ends. Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer and Judith Hill are five backing singers from different musical eras that have struggled to find a place in the spotlight despite being chosen to duet with some of the biggest stars in music history. Darlene worked with many stars including Elvis Presley, while Merry and Lisa were favoured strongly by The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, Claudia got to perform with the likes of Tina Turner and Judith is the youngest of the group who was asked to sing alongside Michael Jackson on his This Is It Tour which was subsequently cancelled following his sudden death. Now, those budding artists are being celebrated as stars in their own right with this brand new documentary.
'20 Feet From Stardom' features interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting among many others, and has been directed by the award-winning Morgan Neville ('Johnny Cash', 'Troubadours', 'The Cool School'). The documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. The movie will reach theatres on March 28th 2014.