20 Feet from Stardom

20 Feet from Stardom


Meet the unsung heroes behind the greatest music of our time.

The world of backup singers, usually relegated to the shadows, is put under the spotlight in this winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary that examines their role in popular music. Relatively uncelebrated, these performers’ voices are often those providing the hooks we find ourselves singing along to, walking a fine line between displaying their talent and upstaging the stars they sing with. As well as the backup singers themselves, 20 Feet from Stardom features interviews with Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder and other industry folk. 

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Flicks Review

Director Morgan Neville delivers a music documentary to match last year’s superb Searching for Sugar Man. It’s a sizzling and ceaselessly entertaining movie, shining fascinating light on the unsung heroines of the music biz. Weaved against a cracking soundtrack are tales of the almost famous singers behind some of the greatest songs in the pop music canon, such as Darlene Love, (the uncredited voice of The Crystals), and the stupendous Merry Clayton (the female vocalist on The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’).... More

Utilising archive footage and contemporary interviews, it’s a film that literally sings the praises of the likes of Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear, Mabel John, Stevvi Alexander, Jo Lawry, Tata Vega and the Waters Family - names I didn’t appreciate until now. Their stories are fascinating and often heartbreaking, but what stands out above all are their unique and powerful singing abilities. From backing vocalists featured on the likes of ‘Young Americans’, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, we learn of hopes, dreams, ambitions and lives lived in the shadows of mega stardom. A cautionary tale for X-Factor’s-Got-Talent wannabes, the interviewees tell of a business of show, where ambition alone isn’t enough to make it. In the harsh environs of popular culture, resilience, timing and sheer dumb luck often play as much a part as talent.

With a must-have soundtrack and contributions from grateful stars, including Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Sheryl Crow, Bette Midler and Stevie Wonder, this is cracking and insightful fare for music and documentary film fans.Hide

The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 4 ratings, 4 reviews
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BY Anne1 superstar

Loved this! Entertainment with a message. Great personal stories of the often unknown, but amazing voices, of backing singers, who had all the talent but not the egoes, or perhaps " them breaks" to make it as the BIG ARTISTS. Can these girls sing! Lisa Fischer is a STAR!

BY Weds_Loafers superstar

You either like documentaries or you don't. This is a terrific movie taking us into the lives of the unsung heroes (in this case, singing heroines!) of the music industry - the back-up singers. The film holds your interest from go to whoa.

BY HighFlyer wannabe

What a documentary. Loved it. Great stories, great music and awesome singers. Adam your review says it all.

The Press Reviews

99% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Neville's greatest strength is as a historian, able to sort through a wealth of details to find the pieces he needs to tell one clear, compelling story. Full Review

  • More than a tribute, the film is a recognition of the talent and sacrifice that many of these vocalists have invested in often challenging careers. Full Review

  • Generous, fascinating documentary... seeks to rewrite the history of pop music by focusing attention on voices at once marginal and vital. Full Review

  • Nails the sense of joie de vivre these extraordinary artists put into every note-a tribute to doing it for the love of the expression over stardom that provides incalculable amounts of inspiration. Full Review

The Talk
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