20 Feet From Stardom: Must See History of the Black Backup Singers behind all the Iconic Songs – Opens June 14 Weekend with special Q&As!


20 Feet From Stardom is a new documentary that is a poignant, heartbreaking and well-deserved celebration of the backup singers behind the most iconic popular rock and pop songs and the legendary bands they supported. The film traces the history of the huge impact these talented, yet unknown black female singers made to the music and the bands millions of people know so well. Their voices are instantly recognizable but the stories of their contributions to music as well as the sacrifices they made both professionally and personally are untold until now.

The film directed by Morgan Neville is a well-made, multifaceted story told through interviews with great singers like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer and Táta Vega. Most of these African American women grew up singing in gospel choirs and it was their rich powerful harmonizing sound that the white music industry co-opted for the most successful pop and rock songs, without the singers getting their due credit and sometimes having their music stolen outright.

The movie is an eye-opener about a music industry that is more concerned with image and manufacturing stars than it is about true talent. In fact, Morgan Neville started the film with the general perception that backup singers must not be as talented as the lead singers they support, but he discovered the opposite is true: that backup singers are consummate in their passion for singing and it is the very demands of the craft that they be able to perfectly harmonize, adapt and interpret the music they’re given that requires immensely more singing talent than the lead acts they support. Perhaps it is because of their devotion to singing, naivete of the business and lack of ambition for stardom that has allowed the music industry to take advantage of their talents while passing them over.

There are interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger, who all share long histories and immense gratitude for these singers who’ve supported them on their music and tours and they’re also candid about the reasons why these singers never found the fame and recognition they deserved. The film follows these women as they recount the highs of their careers as well as the lows, where some had to resort to other jobs like teaching high school or cleaning houses, as the modernizing and cost-cutting music industry moved away from using backup singers.

The film puts a rightful spotlight on these strong women who despite the challenges have stayed true to themselves and their music — singing is in their souls and the intimate details they share with us in the film, they share with humor and dignity, not any bitterness. The iconic songs and rare archival footage throughout the documentary take us on a wonderful nostalgic journey through the different periods and genres of music these ladies helped to shape and change and ultimately, the film ends on a hopeful note as some of the singers are experiencing a new resurgence and interest in their music and talent.

The movie opens this Friday, June 14 in Los Angeles at the Landmark Theater and some of the featured singers will be in attendance with the director at the opening weekend with a Q&A after each screening. They might even perform some songs for the audience as they did for the first time together at the Sundance Film Festival premiere, so don’t miss these shows:

Friday, June 14: 7:15 pm
Judith Hill, Merry Clayton and Morgan Neville

Saturday, June 15: 7:15 pm
Merry Clayton and Morgan Neville

Sunday, June 16: 5:00 pm
Judith Hill, Merry Clayton and Morgan Neville

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