June 28--Sing along to the heretofore unsung story of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll backup singers. See -- better yet hear -- the likes of Merry-- Clayton, Lynn Mabry, Lisa Fischer,- Claudia Lennear, Tata Vega and the great Darlene Love belt out their most iconic hooks.
Directed by Morgan Neville ("American Masters"), who knows enough to let these legends do their thing, "20 Feet From Stardom" is a completely delightful, long-time-coming tribute to the singers whose names we might not have known but whose voices have been a welcome part of our lives.
Clayton, for example, is the female singer on the Rolling Stones classic "Gimme Shelter." She sang her part with Mick Jagger in the middle of the night in hair curlers and pajamas.
Several of the singers talk about honing their voices at church as children and adopting some of the techniques of gospel music to rock, especially call and response.
It's clear that many of these singers had what it takes to be a star in terms of talent, but for reasons having to do with destiny, drive or psychological makeup, it never happened.
Clayton, who sang backup on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," the Southern band's response to Neil Young's controversial anthem "Southern Man," talks about how she refused to do it at first, but then resolved to sing "the crap" out of that Skynyrd song and how the band was very happy she did. Also providing insight and anecdotes are Stevie Wonder, Sting, Jagger and Bruce Springsteen. Love talks about giving up music to clean houses for a living and her eventual comeback as a co-star of the "Lethal Weapon" films. Lennear, who ran with the likes of Jagger and Keith Richards in the 1960s and '70s, currently works as a high school Spanish teacher. The film comprises archival footage of performances on television and live in concert, interviews and new footage of recording sessions. If you grew up to the sounds of rock 'n' roll, you do not want to miss this film.
("20 Feet from Stardom" contains profanity and sexually suggestive language.)
(c)2013 the Boston Herald
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