24th Jul2014

’20 Feet From Stardom’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Lou Adler, Stevvi Alexander, Patti Austin, Chris Botti, Carole Childs, Amy Christian, Kyliyah Clayton | Written and Directed by Morgan Neville


Living in a world obsessed with celebrity when a star is singing on the stage it’s often them that get all the attention, neither they nor their managers would have it any other way really. In 20 Feet From Stardom though we take a look at the singers who often stand in the shadows, either happy to just have their chance to sing and do what they love, or maybe sharing a dream that one day they will be that person in the spotlight and fame will be theirs.

In many ways it’s sad that music is becoming too often about the show and less about the voices. The backing singers have a very important job and they often hold the song together so that the lead singer can enjoy the spotlight and be the idol to so many. The fact is though very often the singers have more respect for their team than many fans and sadly the producer ever will. This is something that is shown well in 20 Feet From Stardom.

A documentary in many ways relies on the facts it presents, and while there is a lot of information to take in from 20 Feet From Stardom it is a fairly one-sided approach and some facts may not be as reliable as we assume them to be. Just reading some reviews of IMDB (I know, something you should never do) it’s obvious that people who know much more about music than me do question some of the facts and to them it does weaken the documentary and it’s message. This is questionable, but from my perspective I look at what is the documentary actually trying to show? The answer with 20 Feet From Stardom is to inform the average music fan that there are really amazing singers in the background, and they deserve some recognition for their talent. This may be from ego, it may be from a desire for fame, but in the end they deserve to be heard. This is happening to some extent now, as we see from people such as Darlene Love and it’s about time.

What is impressive about the documentary whether you want to question facts or not is the quality of the interviews included. With the likes of Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen these are people who are legendary in the business, and it shows the level of respect backing singers have in the industry. It also shows the darker side with a look at people like Phil Spector who seemed to care little for the singers and more about the sound he was creating. He was a pioneer in the music industry but there does seem to be quite a negative view (in this documentary at least) about how he came to create his success.

Whatever your view on backing and “session” singers are 20 Feet From Stardom is an interesting look into a side of the industry that is somewhat in the shadows. Although they tend to get the recognition they deserve now it feels that they had a long road to walk to get there even though their part in the creation of music had a big effect on social changes. If anything this documentary may make you take a look at those people in the background instead of just the singer who appears to be hogging the spotlight, and in truth that has to be a good thing.

20 Feet From Stardom is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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