I’ve secretly (or not so secretly if you’ve ever witnessed me singing in the car) always wanted to be a backup singer. But not just any backup singer – Lisa Fischer who has been with The Rolling Stones since 1989. I first saw The Rolling Stones during their Voodoo Lounge tour when I was 12 years old. I have been enamored with her talent from the first time I heard her sing Gimme Shelter with Mick Jagger. Since that tour in 1994, I’ve seen the Stones four more times and Gimme Shelter is always one of the highlights for me. Not only because it’s one of my favorite songs, but because Lisa’s voice is so powerful it always gives me goosebumps to hear her belt out her solo. And, of course, I’m so jelly she gets to sing with Mick and dance so close to him 🙂
I heard of Twenty Feet From Stardom when it first came out but wasn’t able to see it in the theater. Thanks to Netflix it came to my doorstep this week and I sat down to watch it a couple nights ago. The movie follows singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega and The Waters and sprinkled in are interviews with Mick Jagger, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and more.
The film opened up a world that many of us don’t see. I know personally, when I see backup singers I think they must be living their ultimate dream. They get to sing behind musical legends, travel the world and showcase their amazing talent to us every night. What you see in this movie is that while the job is the ultimate dream come true for some, so many others want to break free from the shadows and yearn for their own solo career. All of the stories were fascinating and many were heartbreaking at the same time.
The interviews with the likes of Mick Jagger and Sting made this movie special. I loved that their interviews were only just sprinkled in and that the focal point of the film was on the experiences and words of the supporting singers and not the headlining artists. I think it would have been easy to really fill the movie with the headliners talking about their supporting singers, but this movie focused on the singers stories, lives and the talent that they’ve brought to our favorite songs.
Another thing I loved about the movie was listening to back stories of recording sessions. One that stood out to me was Merry Clayton recalling how she was summoned to the studio in the middle of the night and was still in her pajamas with her hair in curlers as she recorded her powerful solo in Gimmer Shelter was priceless.
Twenty Feet From Stardom was awarded with an Academy Award this year for Best Documentary Feature. One of the Oscar show highlights was Darlene Love singing His Eye is on the Sparrow in her acceptance speech and receiving a much-deserved standing ovation. I loved how the others accepting the award for the film took a step back and let her voice and song speak for them and all of the other amazing singers in the film.
If you’re a music fan, I think you will enjoy this film. It will certainly make you think about backup singers and the talent they bring to every song differently. They are amazing talents with incredible dreams and stories and I’m so happy this documentary brought them from the background to the forefront.