20 Feet From Stardom (2013)
Director: Morgan Neville
Stars: Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer
The opening scenes give way to Bruce Springsteen explaining the difficult process that is, stepping from the back to front of stage. This is of course, what Morgan Neville’s 91-minute documentary is all about. Through heartfelt interviews with some of the most talented back-up singers of the 60’s & 70’s, Neville uses an array of complimentary archive footage, to great success.
Documenting the journey of a few chosen stars, sees the likes of Darlene Love- member of girl group, The Blossoms, and once back-up to famous artists such as Dionne Warwick, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher and Tom Jones. What we come to learn from Neville, through this cleverly woven chain of events, is that the position of ‘back-up singer’ means so much more than it seems. The extremely strong onstage presence of these, mostly women, is really made crystal clear.
The historical detail hands you the position of archaeologist, as you are taken from event to event; the tyrannical nature of the music industry doesn’t seem to have changed. Exploitation was often rife, The Blossoms in particular, suffering from their connection to producer Phil Spector. The documentary itself seems to play a cathartic role for many of the singers involved, as they are finally able to tell the world their own story.
The archive footage alone, will keep you hooked. Seeing a young, provocative, Lisa fischer perform live and on stage with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones is a hair-raising highlight. Completely endearing, this documentary is sure to surprise you with its educational angle.