Posted by Julia Mahony
This weekend, the Saratoga Film Forum will be screening "20 Feet from Stardom." The documentary, directed by Morgan Neville, follows the lives of some of the most underappreciated people of the music business; backup singers. However, the film does not focus on just any random backup singers. These women--Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer and Judith Hill have all worked with music legends and are all icons in their own right.
In the earlier days of pop, backup singers were usually white. Darlene Love was one of the first black women to break the racial barrier. Sonny and Cher, The Beach Boys and Elvis Presley are just a few of the artists that she worked with. Merry Clayton, who started singing around the same time as Love also sang backup for many top-notch artists. These include, but are not limited to, Neil Young, Carol King, and Joe Cocker. One of her most iconic performances was her duet with Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones song "Gimme Shelter". Despite her impressive credentials, Love was not always treated fairly. Some of her most quintessential work was performed on a single produced by Phil Spector, who frequently credited her voice to other artists.
In this group of accomplished female singers the one that has probably gotten the most recognition for her career thus far is Lisa Fischer. Fischer won a Grammy for one of her own songs but did not think she had the ego for a solo career. She has sung backup for Roberta Flack and Tina Turner, among others. She has also toured with The Rolling Stones. Judith Hill is the youngest of the group, just 39 years old. Hill was chosen to be Michael Jackson's duet partner for his "This Is It" tour. Due to his demise, she never got to go on tour with him, but she did garner worldwide attention when she sang "Heal the World" at his memorial service.
Though this documentary has a star studded cast, including the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger, the real stars are the women who have spent their lives just a few steps away from the spotlight. Showings are Thursday October 17th, Friday October 18th, and Sunday October 20th at 7:30. Tickets are $5 with valid Skidmore ID.