I saw 20 Feet from Stardom last night. Beautifully filmed and superbly edited, this is the story of six back-up singers who have long wanted to make the leap from the side of the stage to the front: Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, Claudine Lennear, Darlene Love, and Táta Vega.
The site for the film offers this synopsis:
Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others.
These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom. Along with rare archival footage and a peerless soundtrack, TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM boasts intimate interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting to name just a few. However, these world-famous figures take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and stories take center stage in the film.
Included are interviews with The Waters
family, producers Lou Adler and Bill Maxwell, and music scholars; archival footage (e.g., George Harrison at the Bangladesh
concert in 1971); and segments on the role of church and gospel music in the lives of some of the singers. In the background of much of 20 Feet from Stardom is the U.S. at different periods in its political and social life—a subordinate story that enriches and deepens the film.
Very moving for me was the story of Claudine Lennear, who gave up her singing career and now teaches Spanish. In a tender and modest way, she expresses her regrets toward the end of the film.
Director Neville founded Tremolo Productions in 1999. Known for its documentary films on cultural subjects, Tremolo has received three Grammy nominations and numerous other awards. Its website says, "Tremolo has also worked on a variety of other film projects including those on language, art, film, and politics. In addition to feature projects, Tremolo produces a variety of museum shorts, industrial shorts, music videos and DVD content for various cultural and commercial institutions." Neville and producers Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers have made a wonderful film—one that is everything a film should be.