Friday, June 21, 2013

MCAU Movie Review: '20 Feet From Stardom' Receives Four Parrots

By Chuck Whiting
MCAU Editor

     The film documentary "20 Feet From Stardom", screened by the Recording Academy at the Belcourt Theatre, is an inspiration not to be missed by artists of all kinds. The film shines a spotlight on some of the background singers who have helped shape the highly successful careers of superstars ranging from Sting and the Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Ike and Tina Turner.

     This down-to-earth mix of soulful rapture and heartbreak reveals the passion, drive, emotional struggles and sheer grit of vocal talents such as Merry Clayton, Lisa Fische, Tata Vega, Darlene Love, Claudia Lennear, and Judith Hill. Most of these amazing women yearned for their own solo careers while creating unmistakable, chart-topping sounds for others. 

     Darlene Love faced the frustration of being locked into a recording contract (more than once) with the difficult, egocentric Phil Spector. Despite having a voice equal or beyond Aretha's, Lisa Fischer's solo efforts went nowhere. The same for Merry Clayton's three solo albums. 

     This film brings their experiences to life with singer reunions, off-the-cuff harmonizing, background footage, and humorous and tearful reflections on hopes and dreams that never came true, yet came true in other wonderful ways. As Sting put it, fame often depends on circumstances and luck more than talent. Some people just sing. It's a higher calling. 

     A clip from Darlene Love's induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame drew tears and cheers. From "20 feet  away", Clayton, Fische, Love, Lennear and others changed  music as we know it. Homage is long overdue... and the crowd applauded. 

(Our verdict: Four Parrots for excellence in filmmaking)

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