Film Review: 20 Feet From Stardom

Director: Morgan Neville

Cast: Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Lisa Fischer, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Jo Lawry, Judith Hill, Bette Midler

Plot: Backup singers have brought harmony to the biggest bands and artists over the years but they struggle to break through as solo artists. 20 Feet From Stardom brings tales from the legends of back-ups that showcases their triumphs and struggles in the music industry.

Review: The life of a back-up singer is something that often gets lost in the shadows, but Morgan Neville’s touching documentary shines the spotlight on the singers who brought us the catchiest and most memorable lines in music.

This impressively cut documentary investigates the gap between the back of the stage and the front and why talent is overlooked in the search for stardom. In the current digital age talent is almost the last thing you need to make it as a star with all the sonic trickery current technology provides. The documentary looks into the backgrounds of the biggest back-up stars of the last 60+ years, showing how they came from church choirs to touring with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones. Springsteen especially reflects on how back-up singers with talent to burn never made it as solo artists because they didn’t have the required ego to make it.

With incredible performance footage from Darlene Love performing with Springsteen and the E Street band to Ray Charles and his Raelettes, this film will have you toe tapping and singing along. There is a touching and thoughtful side to 20 Feet from Stardom as we see the singers recount the highs and lows of their careers. Heart warming moments show us the likes of Darlene Love receiving her induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Lows are depicted through the sense of exploitation the singers went through in their careers, i.e. not receiving credit for the songs they helped create.

Whether or not 20 Feet From Stardom deserved the Academy Award for best documentary over The Act of Killing, it is still a beautifully uplifting and joyous documentary that will please anyone who has the slightest affection for music.


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