Back With The Ladies

Last night I saw Morgan Neville‘s Twenty Feet From Stardom for the second time, and got off on it just as much as I did at Sundance. It has highs, tears, sadnesses, ecstasies, golden oldies and unsuppressable emotional currents. But this portrait of insufficiently heralded backup singers throws a lot of faces, names, careers and personal histories into your lap. The film needs a one-stop-shopping, easy-reference website that tells you who everyone is but right now it only has a Facebook page and a Twitter handle.


The leading lights in 20 Feet From Stardom (l. to r.) Darlene Love, Tata Vega, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Lisa Fischer.

The doc focuses on six women — Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear and Tata Vega.
Just hang on to these six names, reference their faces above and their personal websites or Wiki pages — Love, Fischer, Clayton, Hill, Lennear (who mainly teaches for a living these days) and Vega.

From my 1.18.13 mini-riff: “Pic is a snappy, joyful, deeply emotional doc about the career agonies and ecstasies of soul-angel backup singers.

“These ladies have belted out every backup ‘ooh, yayuh-yaaaay!’ and ‘ooh-wah’ and ‘babaaay!’ you’ve ever heard, and — this is the main point of the film — have much more in their quiver. They’re all as rippin’ and soulful as any Aretha Franklin or Mariah Carey or whomever, but none has ever built a strong solo career.

“This is the melancholy that runs through Twenty Feet From Stardom, but Neville has crafted a killer tribute and brought back the spotlight. This is live-wire stuff, an audience film, a winner.

Twenty Feet takes you back to every Motown and Phil Spector tune that ever mattered, to this and that Joe Cocker song, to David Bowie‘s ‘Young Americans’ (‘Aahhhhllll night!’) and especially to Clayton’s legendary solo on the Rolling Stones‘ “Gimme Shelter”…knockout stuff! The talking heads include Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler and Mick Jagger.”

  • Sonny Hooper

    This, Jeff. More of this, championing small films we might never hear about otherwise, that’s what HE needs an injection of.

  • MikeSchaeferSF

    It’s getting a summer release — I’m sure Harvey knows he has a crowd-pleaser on his hands.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Li-Wright/100001622678180 Li Wright

    Judith Hill is a contestant on the VOICE, which makes me wonder — WTH is she doing on the voice? She starred in Michael Jackson’s funeral, she was going on tour with him, and she’s a contestant on the VOICE? Is she destitute?