Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Movie Special - 20 Feet From Stardom

On the surface its a music documentary. But, once you get past the first layer of this onion its completely something different. In fact, its more like a surgical slice right through everything you know as music today. It dissects pop and soul music and examines the back bone of super star performers and countless recordings by looking at back up singers and their incredible stories, contributions, and roles they played. Yet, the layers run even deeper still... it offers a look into the political side of music, the roles of women in music and the personal stories of some contemporary artists. It truly is so much more than your average music documentary. It's just damn excellent.
Hearing the vocals isolated on multi tracks is the glass bottom on the fishing boat. I was floored to hear the backing vocals in ways I've never had the chance, yet heart broken to hear some of these stories. Some stories tragic and some incredibly inspirational.

The movie features Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Gloria Jones, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, The Waters Family, Tata Vega, Mable John, Janice Pendarvis, Lynn Mabry, David Lasley, Patty Austin, Edna Wright and fucking countless others. Now for us, more educated soul afficianadoes we know that technically these aren't all 'back ground' or 'back up' singers. And, some were parts of incredible groups like Parliament/Funkadelic or Honey Cone. But, it doesn't really matter, this story is about more than just that, it's about soul singers in general. That appears to be the 'backbone' of this story. It is more about the stories and paths of a handful of soul singers and some of them have been back up singers. Like I said before, more importantly its a look into the window of soul and rock and pop music.
Yes, that's Luther Vandross singing for David Bowie.

Luther honoring Lisa Fischer

The amazing Merry Clayton

The always bad-assiest Ikettes.

It's really about those folks that are just behind the limelight, have walked right beside it, and even been in it, but now still aren't household names. In a lot of ways it's a look at fame. It's a documentary about unsung singers, or lesser know heroes of music.
For that exact reason this movie gets the highest praise from us. Discovering singers or musicians on a big screen is a welcome thing, and why this movie completely won my heart. Plus I absolutely love these women soul singers that are speckled throughout the movie. They are indeed some of my favorites, worthy of worship, and damn deserving of some credit and shine!

Merry at an amazing moment listening to her isolated
backing vocals on 'Gimme Shelter'

Luther has always loved and valued backing vocals.

R&B's first action figures. 

For those of us that have 45's by Gloria Jones and Able Mable, and LP's by everyone from The Waters to Merry Clayton..they are ALREADY heroes in our world. We already know about these vocal beauties. We're already fans. But, this movie opens the door to a wider audience and folks that maybe don't know. Plus the artists get some much deserved respect and wider appreciation! You can't be mad at that. It does drift into a 'We Are The World' kinda vibe, and of course has the stereotypical 'oldies concert' feeling at the end. But, even though a bit mainstream, it's still a heart felt journey and a beautiful movie. It's few movies that get rated this high on Rotten Tomatoes and for good reason. Definitely gets the stamp of approval from Sound Boutique.
Go see this.

These backing singers got to fuel the 'sounds' of a revolution.

Bold Soul Sisters.

Phil Spector and Darlene Love - A complex relationship: Phil helped make
Darlene a legend, yet he also stole stardom from just outside her reach. 



  1. Please at the first picture where is read "Yes, that's Luther Vandross singing for David Bowie."
    who is the lady on blue dress? thank you

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