20 FEET FROM STARDOM: Movie Review, Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton

20 feet from stardomAt the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the hottest ticket in town was Morgan Neville’s behind the scenes rockumentary on the greatest backup singers in rock history. You don’t always know their names but their contributions to some of the biggest songs and tours have changed music history. The film is dynamic, entertaining, and an emotional experience hearing their individual stories. The motion picture is in limited release but highly recommended.




ls_live_darlene_loveThe film focuses on Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, and Judith Hill. All four are African American women who began as preacher’s daughters and never dreamed of the crazy rock and roll lifestyle to come. Darlene recounts her days trapped under the obsessive Phil Spector. Her voice was used on songs by The Crystals and she was given no credit. Her personality shines throughout.  We cheer during her resurrection to fame with David Letterman and her hit, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), culminating with her induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The film ends with Darlene’s spiritual take on Bill Withers’ Lean On Me.  Judith Hill recants her days with Michael Jackson.  You’ll recognize her if you’re a fan of NBC’s The Voice.


20 feetMerry Clayton and Lisa Fischer each describe their experience with the Rolling Stones. Merry woke up one night with rollers in her hair and begged to come to the studio to help the Stones with Gimme Shelter. You’ll never listen to the Stones classic or Sweet Home Alabama the same again after watching this movie. Lisa Fischer had brief solo success but has been happier singing backup for every Stones tour since 1985. Hearing Mick Jagger, Springsteen, and Sting profess their love for these ladies is mesmerizing. Brilliant rock documentary worthy of Oscar attention in 2014!