20 FEET FROM STARDOM, Morgan Neville’s documentary charting the lives of some of music’s greatest background singers, picked up an Oscar nomination earlier today. Its makers are hoping to recreate the success of last year’s Best Doc winner, the uplifting Rodriguez film Searching For Sugar Man.
Like …Sugar Man, 20 Feet From Stardom isn’t short of crossover potential, having already taken $5 million at the US Box Office. Its cast of singers wear their hearts on their sleeves and prove that music’s real stars aren’t always those standing at the front.
The women behind the powerhouse voices include Darlene Love (the often-uncredited star of Phil Spector’s ’60s productions), Merry Clayton (that gut-wrenching vocal on the Stones’ Gimme Shelter? That’s her), Lisa Fischer (the Stones’ lead backing singer since 1989 and the person responsible for this mind-blowing vocal), Judith Hill (booked to sing with Michael Jackson at hisz ill-fated O2 comeback shows and now singing with Stevie Wonder), Tata Vega (touring with Elton John and the voice behind the soundtrack for The Color Purple) and Claudia Lennear (Ikette, member of Joe Cocker’s legendary Mad Dogs And Englishman band and one-time Jagger squeeze).
Their stories – each peppered with heady successes, plummeting failures and some serious hard graft – are bonded by a simple desire to serve the music, to stay out of the spotlight and to maintain concentration on what they describe as “the blend”.
Whether 20 Feet From Stardom can follow the success of …Sugar Man will be decided at the Oscars ceremony on March 2. UK readers will be able to catch it when it’s released on March 28. Until then, check out the trailer below…
Listen to the soundtrack:
20 Feet From Stardom will be reviewed in a future issue of MOJO.