Twenty Feet From Stardom (2013)
This documentary film will appeal to baby boomer music lovers. Director Morgan Neville explores the ambiguous careers of the black female backup vocalists for many of the greatest bands, from Darlene Love and Merry Clayton in the sixties to contemporary singers like Judith Hill. These are enormously talented people who worked hard to find their niche, but no one has ever heard of them except insiders. The film has no narration per se. The singers, now in their late sixties, reflect back on their lives and the roles they played. Interspersed are observations by rock greats like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, etc. There's a heavy dose of nostalgia here, with lots of archival footage, like George Harrison playing at the 1971 Bangladesh benefit concert. But there's also harsh realism. Music is a brutal business about the bottom line. There have been enormous structural changes across the decades. Working with Phil Spector could take its toll. And as Sting observes, it takes more than talent; you need sheer luck to make it.