Saturday, May 10, 2014

20 feet from stardom

I watched the wonderful documentary '20 Feet from Stardom', which tells the story of the stellar background singers that made some of our favourite artists sound great. I especially loved the mention of Merry Clayton's contribution to The Rolling Stone's Gimme Shelter, which I think took that song into the stratosphere.

The documentary also follows the careers of Darlene Love, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer among others. It not only tells the tale of their contributions but also how some of them tried to break out and become lead vocalists themselves.

Some backup singers that did manage to break out include:

  • Whitney Houston (backed up Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls)
  • Mariah Carey (backed up Brenda Starr)
  • Mary J Blige
  • Cher (backed up The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers)
  • Sheryl Crow (backed up Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Belinda Carlisle and Don Henley)
  • Pink
  • John Legend (backed up Alicia Keys)
  • Luther Vandross (backed up Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, and Donna Summer)

I was hoping they would have told the story of what I consider to be the greatest back-up singer contribution in the history of rock.

I'm talking about the improvisation Clare Torry did on Pink Floyd's Great Gig in the Sky from The Dark Side of the Moon. Alas it was not to be.

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