Have you seen “20 Feet From Stardom”? No? Here’s the trailer and then I’m going to talk about it.
It’s amazing how most people don’t know the names of backup singers, but almost always know the names of the artists they sing for. I’m one of those people. I have to admit, the only backup singer I knew that is in this documentary that I knew the name of beforehand is Judith Hill.
But then again, at the same time, it’s not amazing. It’s expected. People come to the shows for the big names, not for the backup. However, if the backup disappeared, it wouldn’t be a show without them. They even mention in the film that backup singers are sometimes used as eye candy. So literally, the show wouldn’t be a show without them. (Now I do understand the flipside too, so don’t get me wrong. No backup singer wants to be on stage just to be eye candy.)
The film touched on how some of them were mistreated, like being featured on a song, but when the record came out, her name was nowhere to be found. And another example where a girl wanted to move on to a solo career, but after the first record and some time when she came back, they told her she was too fat and too old.
And then there’s Judith Hill. I was most excited to hear her story. She’s a background singer who’s trying to make it as a solo artist. She wants that so much she turned down many backup gigs to pursue her solo career. However, later she had to accept a couple background gigs and even wore a wig to hide behind, but then fans recognized her anyway and couldn’t believe it. She said she had to accept those gigs because it is tough to make it solo and sometimes you have to take gigs that are offered to you even if it’s not your ideal choice. As a writer I can definitely relate to that.
The film introduced me to Lisa Fischer. I am so glad that even though she spent some time struggling to make her own record and was even shelved at one point, she is back. To say it’s because of her passion for singing is an understatement. I really believe this woman was born to sing. She has this unique voice that speaks when she sings. I’m not even talking about words necessarily. Not every time she sings words. Sometimes she just sings emotion. And she does it purely because she has to, not to gain the spotlight. Or become famous. She’s a pure example of a diva singer who’s a singer, not a diva.
For some reason, her album was shelved, but she has proven that when you have that talent, you just got to do it. Just keep doing it because you can’t hold back something like that. So now she’s back on track on making a record and I knew it was about time. Talent like that has to be heard. There are no other ways to describe it.