20 Feet From Stardom Is The Greatest Film You’ll See This Week/Month And Possibly Year

The Oscar-winning documentary brings backing singers to the forefront.


by Jess Commons |
Published on

What’s this then? 20 Feet From Stardom – it should probably been on your radar – it did just win an Oscar after all.

For reals? Yep, for Best Documentary Feature – beating The Act Of Killing AND Dirty Wars.

Nice. What’s it about? It’s basically a look at all the people who served as backing singers for some of the world’s greatest musicians.

Oooh like who? Like Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Sting, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Luther Vandross… it’s a pretty exhaustive list.

Wow, big names... Yep, quite a lot of them are in the documentary too. Bruce Springsteen also does a very good job of reminding us that silver foxes are definitely A Thing.

You digress. Yes sorry. The documentary focuses on several women; most notably Darlene Love, who’s one famous solo song _Christmas _ has become a holiday classic. She did have to spend a lot of time recording songs that other people lipsynced to though. Which was a bit rubbish.

Sheesh. Anyone else? Merry Clayton, who sang the original backing vocals on Gimme Shelter tells a brilliant anecdote about how that came about. There’s also Lisa Fisher; a backing singer who enjoyed a brief solo career in the early ‘90s who’s voice is heartbreaking.

What are people saying? 'As uplifting as the music is, the film most benefits from the participants' abundant gifts as storytellers. They provide funny, frank and unabashedly emotional first-hand accounts of what it is like to be a supporting player to some of the greats in the business.' Susan Wlosczczyna, RogerEbert.com

And what are we saying? It's a masterpiece. These women could just have sung for an hour and a half and kept our attention. But as well as their quite frankly staggering voices, there's also some spectacular stories (ever wondered what it's like to sing at Michael Jackson's funeral? Or be called out of bed by the Rolling Stones?) and brilliant archive footage - watch out for Tina Turner and the Ikettes shimmying their way across a stage in barely-there mini dresses under the steely gaze of Ike Turner, and pictures of Claudia Lennear - the original inspiration behind The Rolling Stones Brown Sugar - falling out of clubs, hand in hand with Mick Jagger. Go, watch and enjoy. You won't regret it.

Follow Jess on Twitter @jess_commons

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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