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MOVIE REVIEW (Music)
20 Feet From Stardom
Various Artists

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Label: Radius TWC Released: 6/14/2013


Another in a series of "give the backup performers their due" documentaries (see also Standing In The Shadows Of Motown and The Wrecking Crew), "20 Feet From Stardom" aims to shine a light on the unrecognized importance of the role of backup singers in popular music.

From well-known pioneers like Darlene Love and Merry Clayton to Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer and Tata Vega, the film shines a light on the internal conflicts and sometimes frustrating experiences of backup singers often torn between supporting other people's careers versus their own.

Darlene Love's story really puts more current "controversies" like the Milli Vanilli debacle and current-day lip-synching criticism in perspective, and perhaps exposes a side of the music industry that prefers to stay hidden.

The film effectively spans from the fifties to modern day and shows how backup singers in general and these ones in particular are an essential part of the songs and artists they support. Mixing historical footage with current footage of old friends reuniting, Judith Hill working with Michael Jackson before his death, interviews with the likes of Springsteen, Sting and Mick Jagger (appearing a little confused at times), "20 Feet From Stardom" gives the viewer both an inside look at the industry and a peek into the lives of its sometimes-overlooked key players.

Director Morgan Neville has made films about stars from Muddy Waters to Johnny Cash, James Taylor and Carole King, and "20 Feet From Stardom" is another fine piece of work in his growing catalog of musical tributes on film.

Steve Donnelly Email WWW

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