If you love music, particularly almost any type of popular music from the late 1950’s to the mid 1980’s, then put everything down and everything aside on your busy calendar and go see this documentary. Go if only for the reason you want to listen to some great music and get some additional context.
This film is the story of the backup singer; the crucial supporting vocal or set of vocals to our most popular songs. In some cases they are the voice over behind a popular star who really cannot sing (some will be embarrassing to learn about). 20 Feet From Stardom brings so much to the viewer it is worth 10 times the price of admission.
20 feet brings to you front and center; the people and voices you probably hum along with or sing to way more often than you care to admit. Many of these people are behind the most popular and memorable songs in commercial recording history.
20 Feet tells the story from the eyes of the best backups the recording industry has produced – hands down; Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Darlene Love, and Lisa Fischer. 20 feet tells the story from the eyes of some of the recording industry’s most successful stars; Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Sting. 20 Feet tells the story from the eyes of some who have successfully navigated the 20 feet; Sheryl Crow, Patti Austin, and Chris Botti. 20 Feet tells the story from the eyes of the producer; Lou Adler and David Lasley.
20 Feet also delves into why the final distance to stardom in not achieved, including personal choice and failure. For many, the film allows you to travel back to an earlier time in your life and experience it with many of the people and sounds directly in front of you.
****** As a Side Note ******
I had the fortune of meeting some of these background singers while taking photos of music groups while on tour in the United States. All should keep in mind that I was a young, inexperienced and completely unqualified person in his late teens. For example, I met Merry Clayton and Claudia Lennear while shooting five nights of the Rolling Stones Tour of the Americas 1975 for Sunday Magazine and the Evening News Association. I could be wrong, but they along with Billy Preston had joined the Rolling Stones for this tour to promote the Album; Black and Blue. Unfortunately backup singers did not get credited on tours until later years.
If I start to get grandiose and or add some revisionist history for my benefit about this period in my life or my photography from it – I watch This Is spinal Tap. I am quickly humbled – “Hello Cleveland”, “Because its one louder?”
One Reply to “So Close Yet So Far: 20 Feet From Stardom”
Spinal Tap is one of my very favorite send ups of rock and roll musicians and the touring life.