20 Feet from Stardom
United States of America (US), 2013, 89 minutes, SD
20 Feet from Stardom Synopsis

Millions know their voices but no one knows their names.


The Oscar-winning box office sensation from acclaimed director Morgan Neville, shines a spotlight on the untold stories behind some of the greatest musical hits of the 21st century.


Joyous and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung talents who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent singing in the shadows of the stars.


Featuring Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder and Bette Midler.

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Reviewed by laurenhurrell
A fantastic documentary that shares the inspiring stories of several extremely talented, deeply undervalued singers, who simply wished to make their work lives something that they enjoyed personally, rather than... more
A fantastic documentary that shares the inspiring stories of several extremely talented, deeply undervalued singers, who simply wished to make their work lives something that they enjoyed personally, rather than to develop a persona and break into the world of fame, for their biggest passion is simply, to sing, even if they only ever provide backing vocals to the stars. Along the way we meet lovable, talented singers such as Darlene Love and Lisa Fischer, whose spirit captivates and inspires the viewer as they share their golden career moments, as well as the downsides to what they have achieved. We also experience moments of heartbreak, as Merry Clayton shares her infamous experience of recording Gimme Shelter with The Rolling Stones, which tragically led to her miscarriage due to the vocal exertion and passion that she put into the late night recording. Highly recommended for anyone who shares the passion of singing, or for anyone who has always wished they were blessed with impressive pipes; you'll be forlorn with envy by the end of watching I'm sure, but no doubt will you be left awe inspired by these incredibly talented people, most of whom you may never have heard of by name, but whose backing vocals you may have heard several times without a clue. 
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Reviewed by fbcaird
This documentary is another in a recent cycle that looks at those from the music industry who have been neglected in some way. In A Band Called Death (2012) we... more
This documentary is another in a recent cycle that looks at those from the music industry who have been neglected in some way. In A Band Called Death (2012) we learn about an innovative proto-punk band who never even got a chance to record an album and were only rediscovered over 35 years after recording their demo tapes, in Anvil: the Story of Anvil (2008) we follow a band who have maintained a very mediocre level of success over a very long time and in'Searching for Sugarman (2012) we are given the incredible story about a musician who released a couple of records that no one bought and who vanished without a trace for quarter of a century. The angle that '20 Feet from Stardom' is coming from is very similar but with a twist – this is the story of neglected musicians who are in actual fact the voices of the sounds that have been in ours heads our whole lives.\r\n\r\nIt centres on a selection of classy African American female backup singers who recorded vocal accompaniments for a series of stars from the 60's to the present day. While they were essentially voices for hire, often it was their vocals that made the songs so good – listen to David Bowie's 'Young Americans' and tell me that it's the backing vocals that aren't the best part. But the story has a sadness, as these incredible singers rarely got beyond the backup part of the act. Sometimes they tried and their career stalled. This was because being a successful solo artist requires so many variables such as songs, charisma and determination. While it also needs the marketing powers of the record label. All these ingredients are not necessarily a given for someone with a beautiful voice. However, in some cases actual exploitation seems to have occurred as in the case of Darlene Love, who was used by producer Phil Spector as the voice that the girl group The Crystals claimed as their own but even more unforgivably, Spector got Love to record a track promising it was going to go out under her name only to surreptitiously give it to The Crystals again.\r\n\r\nThe film uses a talking heads format, with contributions from a variety of stars that used backup singers such as Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Sting. There is also priceless archive footage of the likes of Ray Charles and, best of all, Ike and Tina Turner. Sometimes we even get to deconstruct a famous song to hone in on the backup vocals, such as in the case of the track 'Gimme Shelter' which is very possibly the best song the Rolling Stones ever recorded. We hear the backup vocal in all its isolated glory and it becomes very obvious that without it, this song would simply be nowhere near as powerful. So, let's hear it for those unheralded women who have filled our heads with such beautiful sounds all these years. This is their moment of recognition and they deserve it.
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Reviewed by montybrando
A fascinating insight into the lives of some of the most talented vocalists on the planet. You've probably never heard their names but you've certainly heard their voices. It reveals... more
A fascinating insight into the lives of some of the most talented vocalists on the planet. You've probably never heard their names but you've certainly heard their voices. It reveals what goes on behind the scenes in the industry and completely dismisses the idea of backing vocalists as mere fill-in voices. \r\n\r\nThe behind the scenes look at the making of Lisa Fischer's legendary vocal performance on The Rolling Stones's 'Gimme Shelter' will send chills right the way through you. They isolate her original vocals without any instrumental and the result is one of the most stunning vocals you're ever likely to hear.
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  • mind-blowing talents!  the film mirrored triumphs as well as downfalls of  entertainers.  Life is a stage! 

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  • mind-blowing talents!  the film mirrored triumphs as well as downfalls of  entertainers.  Life is a stage! 
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