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Just a Taste: Twenty Feet From Stardom

Friday, June 28, 2013

One of my early on fantasies was to either sass my way through "Hit the Road Jack" as a Raelette, backing up the great Ray Charles. Or grove with the ultimate R&B legend, Luther Vandross, who left us way too soon. Or believe it or not, really wanted to harmonize with Reba McEntire, you'd be amazed at how many of her songs from the 90's I know by heart.  The on the road lifestyle would have suited me well too; there's nothing tying me to being a homebody, a new city every other night, 4 star hotels, the camaraderie of the other musicians and roadies, staying up till 2am, getting up at noon - all of it would have fit right into my idea of living the life!

And I would have pursued this dream too, if it weren't for one thing -  I can't sing.  I mean, I can carry a tune, but believe me, there's nobody asking me to belt out a number.  I know other people who also think being a backup singer for famous singers and musicians would be a dream come true - so it's odd that Twenty Feet From Stardom, a documentary by Morgan Neville, decided to show the disappointments and dissatisfaction that comes from being in the background rather than center stage.

The idea for this doc came from former president of A&M records Gil Friesen, who suggested it to Morgan Neville for his next project. Neville said when he began researching the world of backup singers he found very little information, movies, articles etc on the subject and wound up interviewing over 50 different singers of varying ages, race and musical backgrounds. And I think in light of this, the subject deserves a second pass with this wider spectrum in mind.  Don't get me wrong, I really liked 20 Feet From Stardom, it's rich with history and music. It's got great interviews with Stevie Wonder, Sting, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, Lou Adler and Mick Jagger. However, the movie's main focus is on just 6 ladies of color - Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Táta Vega, Judith Hill and Claudia Lennear.  All of which had varying degrees of success over the years, but ultimately never got to be the chart topping, solo artist they dreamed of being.

Although success could still be on the horizon for Judith Hill, the young woman everyone was talking about after Michael Jackson's funeral and posthumous documentary "This is It". She was also a contestant on this past season of The Voice. She's exotic and extremely talented, hopefully she'll find that one song to catapult her onto the charts. If she does, I believe she has the voice and love of the industry to have staying power.  But I gotta say, the true star of 20 Feet From Stardom is Darlene Love. Her voice is almost as powerful today as it was almost 50 years ago and her accounts of the music industry are a tad more compelling than the other ladies featured.

In the sixties, Darlene Love sang lead on a string of Phil Spector-produced hits including
“He’s a Rebel”, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”, “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry”, “Wait Til My Bobby Gets Home”, “Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts?” and the seasonal classic “(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home”. In addition, she sang background vocals on numerous other Spector produced hits including the Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”, the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ and Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High” READ MORE

Well, I'm sorry some of these ladies experiences were dampened just a bit by the bite of that fame bug. But I still say, put me in a shimmering, revealing outfit, stand me behind a microphone with 2 or 3 other singers, somewhere stage left or right and I'd be in need of nothing more.
Twenty Feet From Stardom was part of the 2nd annual XPN Music Film Festival, and unfortunately I missed the screening which featured live performances by Darlene Love and Lisa Fischer. Click HERE for the rest of Tinsel & Tine's coverage of the festival.

This doc also reminds me of one called The Wrecking Crew about sessions musicians of the 50's, 60's & 70's, it screened at the inaugural XPN Music Film Festival  click HERE for Tinsel & Tine's post.

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?
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