Watch 20 Feet From Stardom
- 1 hr 29 min
The 2013 documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom showcases the often overlooked and underappreciated experiences of backup singers in the music industry. Directed by Morgan Neville, the documentary employs interviews with some of the most prominent and talented backup singers to show how they have contributed to some of the most famous songs in history.
The documentary begins by highlighting the role of backup singers in popular music. It shows how these performers provide essential vocal support to the lead singers, creating depth and harmony that elevates the song and enhances the overall performance. As the documentary progresses, it becomes clear that backup singers are not just hired musicians but are artists in their own right.
The film features interviews with some of the most prominent backup singers of the past half-century, including Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, and Lisa Fischer. They recount stories of their experiences working as backup singers, describe what motivated them to pursue a career in music, and share their reflections on their contributions to the industry.
Darlene Love, for instance, talks about how she started singing backup for artists like Sam Cooke and the Blossoms in the 1960s. She tells the story of how producer Phil Spector hired her to sing lead on several hit songs, yet used another singerâs credit to get his own name on the songwriting credits. Love went on to establish a solo career, but her contributions as a backup singer paved the way for her success.
Merry Clayton similarly shares her journey as a backup singer working with some of the biggest names in popular music, including Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. She recounts the story of how she made a lasting impact on the Rolling Stonesâ âGimme Shelter,â one of the most iconic songs of the 1960s. Clayton was called in to record a vocal part for the song at the last minute and ended up singing one of the most memorable lines in the song.
Lisa Fischer, who has worked with artists like Luther Vandross, Sting, and Tina Turner, talks about the challenges of being a backup singer. She describes feeling frustrated by the lack of recognition that backup singers receive, despite often contributing critical components to a song. For Fischer, singing backup was never just a job, but rather a creative outlet that allowed her to explore her musical passions.
Throughout the film, 20 Feet From Stardom explores various themes related to the music industry, including race, gender, and power dynamics. The documentary shows how being a backup singer is often a thankless job, particularly for women and people of color who have historically faced systemic barriers to success in the industry. The film also highlights the interdependence between lead and backup singers, and how a song can only truly shine when each voice is given the space it deserves to be heard.
One of the most interesting aspects of the documentary is its use of archival footage and recordings to showcase the evolution of backup singing over the decades. The film juxtaposes clips of backup singers in the 1950s and 1960s with those of more recent performances, revealing how the style and role of backup singing has changed over time.
Overall, 20 Feet From Stardom is a captivating and visually stunning documentary that pays tribute to the often-overlooked role of backup singers in the music industry. With its powerful storytelling and rich musical performances, the film is a must-see for anyone who loves music or is interested in exploring the behind-the-scenes workings of the industry.
20 Feet From Stardom is a 2013 documentary with a runtime of 1 hour and 29 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.4 and a MetaScore of 83.