20 Feet from Stardom
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You probably recognize names like Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Ray Charles, and Sting. The names Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, and Merry Clayton may not be nearly as recognizable, but there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve heard their voices before, belting out the harmonies behind some of your favorite singers. And these talented backup singers are the focus of Morgan Neville’s tuneful documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom.

This stunning Oscar-nominated doc takes some of music’s greatest backup singers out of the shadows and places them in the spotlight. These are the women (and sometimes men, too) who have spent their careers giving depth and power to other people’s hit songs. For some, that’s a touchy subject; many of the film’s subjects tried to have singing careers of their own, only to find more success singing backup. Others, however, are happy to use their musical talents in a way that keeps them in the industry but out of the spotlight. And all of them are more than happy to share both their stories and their songs.

The film introduces a number of these talented backup singers—many from the ‘60s, long before modern technology and changes in the industry put many of these talented artists out of a job. They brought the heart and soul to some of the most popular songs of the time, and through interviews and archive footage of concerts, studio sessions, and more, this remarkable documentary tells their story—one that you never knew you needed to hear.

20 Feet from Stardom is a must-see for any music lover. It’s music as you’ve never seen, heard, or thought of it before—a fascinating look at the industry as seen from the anonymity of the studio and the shadows at the back of the stage.

The subjects of the film may be backup singers, but that doesn’t mean that they’re shy or reserved. They have plenty of personality—and almost as much attitude as they have talent. And considering their unique position in the music industry, they have some incredible stories to share, too. They’ve had some interesting run-ins with legendary artists and have recorded under some unlikely circumstances (like Merry Clayton’s late-night recording session for those unforgettable backup vocals for the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”). And between dishing about the stars and telling the stories of their own careers, they also have some interesting insights into the industry, pop culture, politics, and so much more.

Heartbreaking yet inspiring, 20 Feet From Stardom is an unforgettable documentary, filled with stories of success and failure, satisfaction and regret. It’s beautifully filmed and loaded with classic songs that will make you want to sing along—but these voices are so extraordinary that, just this once, you might want to leave it to the pros.

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