20 Feet from Stardom

Synopsis: The backup singer exists in a strange place in the pop music world; they are always in the shadow of the feature artists even when they are in front of them in concert while they provide a vital foundation for the music. Through interviews with veterans and concert footage, the history of these predominately African-American singers is explored through the rock era. Furthermore, special focus is given to special stand outs who endeavored to make a living in the art burdened with a low profile and more personal career frustrations, especially those who faced the very different challenge of singing in the spotlight themselves.
Director(s): Morgan Neville
Production: Radius-TWC
  Won 1 Oscar. Another 20 wins & 26 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
91 min


It... It's a bit

of a walk, you know,

from, you know, back by

the drummer over here.

That walk to the front is...

is complicated.

Singing background remains

a somewhat unheralded

position, you know.

So people make that leap.

So, what you guys

do on that part?

I'll help you carry on

It's almost more of

a mental leap than...

than just the

physical act of singing.

It's a conceptual leap,

and if you can comfortably

come up with it, you know,

then you may

find a spot out there.

Carry on for...

But I know

tremendous backup singers

who just aren't comfortable

in that position.

You gotta have that narcissism,

you gotta have that ego.

So shall we do it?

It can be

a pretty long walk.

One, two, three!

There's a power

to what it is that we do.

No one till right now has

publicly acknowledged it,

but people love to see

the background singers.

I mean, when you think about

Lou Reed, "Walk On The Wild Side,"

you know, that iconic song with the line

that makes a lot of people uncomfortable

because it says "colored girls. "

But what is he... what is he referencing

when he says, "And the colored

girls say do-do-do-do-do?"

The fact that there's

a power to these women

that stand on stage

and sing with these guys.

Backup singers just bring so

much more life to the situation.

When a voice opens up,

there comes the life.

That's when it's a

person-to-person connection.

What about the time

you were rolling over?

You fall on your face

and you must be having fun


How do you do?

You don't hold on necessarily

to your individual vocal persona.

God help us

'Cause you're trying

to get your persona

to blend and mesh with the other voices.

That's awesome.

- What's the matter with him?

- He's all right

- How do you know?

- The Lord won't mind

- Don't play no games

- He's all right

Love from the bottom

to the top

- Turn like a wheel

- He's all right

See for yourself...

There's something that

happens when you lock in with somebody

and all the harmonics ping,

and, I mean,

if you don't like that,

what do you like?

Cool down

Stop acting crazy

They're gonna leave

and we'll be on our own

I could... I could be different people,

a chameleon, you know.

It's just like you could change up.

You're never bored.

I'm a part of the sisterhood.

I got to earn this.

It wasn't just a dream that I had

I actually got to sing

these songs and sing on key.

- Like a wheel

- He's all right

- See for yourself

- The Lord won't mind

- We're gonna move

- Right now

Turn like a wheel

As a background singer,

they would like you to come in,

make things sound great,

take very little credit...

and go home quickly.

It's all right

The Lord won't mind

Right now

Turn like a wheel

Inside a wheel

Thank you, Jesus.

Thank you, Father.

I will enter His gates

With thanksgiving in my heart

I will enter His courts with praise

God gave us the ability

to create, didn't he?

- Yes, he did.

- OK.

Today we're gonna pin

this down to music.

He has made me glad

I will rejoice for He has made me glad

I see these kids doing this

slide, I said, "Oh, child. "

He think he got that

from, uh... James Brown.

I said, "Oh, that came

from one of my pastors. "

He has made me glad

I will rejoice for

He has made me glad

- My father was a minister.

- My father was a...

- My father was a...

- Pastor's daughter.

- Isn't that clich?

- That's how I was actually

- introduced to music.

- I started as a four-year-old.

All through grammar school.

I will say this is the day

You come up learning the part

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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