20 Feet from Stardom

Backups in the spotlight

It takes a certain selfish, sociopathic ego to become a star, which is probably why the supremely talented yet humble singers in 20 Feet from Stardom haven't had many movies made about them. Veteran biographer Morgan Neville crafts a history lesson on background singing—from call-and-answer church choir origins, to marvels like Darlene Love and Merry Clayton, all the way up to contemporaries like Judith Hill. Like most aspects of music, background singing reached its zenith in the '70s, and the film lovingly looks back on how eagerly British rockers like Joe Cocker and The Rolling Stones embraced the sound of soulful, black, American women. Blessedly, Neville displays the power of those voices by mixing archival footage with brand new recording sessions. 20 Feet from Stardom rightfully points the spotlight on the handful of women who have sung all your favourite parts of all your favourite songs.

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