Review: 20 Feet From Stardom

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What’s difference does 20 feet make? It makes all the difference on the stage as that is the distance between nameless and faceless back-up singer and the star. The “star” in question being Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Sting and Bruce Springsteen but to name but a few and there you are standing 20 feet from the spotlight and therefore 20 Feet From Stardom.

This is a documentary that focuses on the back-up singers with interviews with the stars mentioned above and what it takes to make that leap from back-up to being the main event and the name that everyone comes to see. Some people have successfully made the transition like Luther Vandross who started out as a back-up singer for David Bowie but what about the women. We meet Darlene Love who successful walked the 20 feet to stardom and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after 50 years in the industry.

The mastery of Morgan Neville’s 2013 Oscar nominated documentary is to shine a light on these women in the majority and find out what their story was. It doesn’t sugar coat the brutality of the industry and just what it takes to be a star or not. The documentary made it clear that not all back-up singers want to be stars as some are in it for the love of music and harmony and have no desire to be in the spotlight. It was particularly illuminating to see how in recent times back-up singers have been replaced by auto tuning with budget costs.

It certainly a must watch for music lovers and for those curious to see the pivotal role that back-up singers played in shaping pop and rock classics of the 60s and 70s.

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