20 Feet From Stardom
Autumn 2013 Documentary series
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 7:00pm
Directed by Morgan Neville
Starring Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, and Judith Hill
Rated PG ·
20 Feet from Stardom
Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (Beauty is Embarrassing, Pearl Jam Twenty) returns with his compelling new documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom, an Official Selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. In his latest foray into the subject of rock ’n’ roll history, Neville shines a spotlight on the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the late 20th century, taking an unprecedented look at the moving personal journeys of these normally uncelebrated artists and paying tribute to their indelible role in popular music.
Although few, if any, of these singers become household names, their work has defined countless songs and records that remain hallowed in rock’s collective memory. Helping to set the record straight, Neville juxtaposes interviews with industry legends (Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Sting, and Bette Midler) with the relative unknowns who support them—a list that includes such talents as Merry Clayton (who sang on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”), Táta Vega (notable for her duets with Michael Jackson and Lou Rawls), and Darlene Love (a discovery by producer Phil Spector). As each backup singer demonstrates their unquestionable talent, and the unique blend of intuition and skill needed to support lead vocals, they also reveal their own struggles to find careers as solo artists, and their disappointment in a music industry that has only propelled them so far.
Triumphant and heartbreaking, 20 Feet from Stardom is a tribute to the unsung voices that changed the sound of popular music, and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices, and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others and standing next to the spotlight.
“A moving and joyous behind-the-scenes documentary about a world filled with big, bold personalities and the music they make.” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times)
“Yes, for every star there are five more also-rans and maybe-next-times. But there is honor and glory in being part of the blend. And, at the film’s midpoint, when Clayton talks about the late-night recording session in 1969 of Gimme Shelter, the memory takes on the glow of myth.” (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune)