20 Feet from Stardom
If you like singing in harmony (and if you don’t, you may be on the wrong webpage), I highly recommend the feature documentary “20 Feet from Stardom.” The film focuses on background singers in rock/pop music, some of whom perform on stage and others who mostly appear on recordings.
From the interviews it seems that the director, Morgan Neville, cast his net wide, but in the end focused his film on African American women. Which is fine, since they are clearly the dominant force in this corner of the music industry.
Among the featured performers is Darlene Love, famously trapped in anonymous Phil Spector recording contracts and turning to cleaning houses before mounting a comeback. There’s Merry Clayton, the haunting voice on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” (“Rape! Murder!”) who is a goddess among back ups but who never got any traction as a solo performer. And there’s Judith Hill, set to break out on Michael Jackson’s last tour before he died. My favorite was Lisa Fischer whose musicality is a wonder to behold.
The film deftly traces a trend in recorded music while still allowing for multiple, personal perspectives of individual women.
But mostly, there’s the music. These women can sing. And they harmonize. And they swing. And as you watch you’ll realize how much you want to sing along.
Leave a Reply.
Jack Cheng directs the Clemente Course in Dorchester, excavates in the Middle East, and writes in Waban, MA.