July 31, 2013


At the strong suggestion of Dwayne Milan´╗┐, I saw 20 Steps From Stardom last night. And I caught it with my former Pyramid/Florent cohort Ebony Jett, who lives in San Fran now. It's a documentary about the trials and tribulations of professional background singers, who finally take center stage in this moving film. Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, Tata Vega and Judith Hill are featured along with the major artists who work with them: Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger and Luther Vandross. This film is a testament to the power of intelligent film-making: taking a behind the scenes position and elevating it to examine what makes these singers tick, what challenges they face and the dialogue they have in choosing between working steadily while making someone else sound better or going solo. Lisa Fischer had her own Grammy-winning hit How Can I Ease The Pain, yet chose to fade into the background because she doesn't want to put on sunglasses when hitting the streets or fool with a lot of the egotistical, game-playing that stars have to face. Like Lisa, several of the singers expressed that they were more interested in making quality music as part of a group than promoting themselves. You can tell that these girls aren't from the let's-put-out-a-record-because-we're-famous-despite-no-musical-talent Too Tardy For The Party school of thought. A touching and gutsy look into the changing music industry from the 1960s until now which I highly recommend. And they didn't skimp on music clearance, so they play many of the huge, back-up singer driven hits like Monster Mash, Sweet Home Alabama and Thriller so you can appreciate the singers' stories by hearing their great work right then and there.