Just this weekend I saw the documentary "20 Feet From Stardom" (more on that later) and I immediately had to check out the soundtrack of it.
"20 Feet From Stardom - Music from the Motion Picture" (13 tracks; 49 min.) brings a fine collection of the songs that we see and hear in the movie, starting with Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (who can forget that famous "do-dodo-dodo" outro at the end of that song. I'm very happy that the Talking Heads song is also included, please note that this is the live version of "Slippery People" from "Stop Making Sense" (as seen in this documentary), just a great moment. "He's a Rebel" by the Crystals is another key moment in the documentary. Merry Clayton, one of the main singers featured in the movie, gets two songs here, including the Stones cover "Gimme Shelter" from an early 70s solo album, and the Neil Young cover "Southern Man". David Bowie's "Young Americans" is another key moment in the movie, and very happy that it's included. Judith Hill, another featured singer, brings an original track, a pointed piano ballad "Desperation". The album closes with a new cover of "Lean on Me", featuring the afore-mentioned Clayton and Hill and also Darlene Love and Jo Lawry. In all, this is quite the album!
As to the movie itself, I am surprised that Amazon does not have a listing for it yet as a future DVD release, as it usually does for movies currently in the theatre. "20 Feet From Stardom" (2013 release; 91 min.), director Morgan Neville brings a great look into the importance of the backup singers in rock and roll and R&B. There is an enjoyable mix of interviews of "big names" (the movie opens with insights from none other than Bruce Springsteen himself, later on Mick Jagger provides comments as well), along with archive footage, and then focusing on 4 famously un-famous backup singers both from the old days (Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Tata Vega) and more recently (Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill). Did you know that one of those songers won a Grammy? If you wonder who, just watch! The best moment in the documentary comes when we see a discussion about the backup singers of Luther Vandross, only then to learn that Vandross himself started out as a back-up singer for David Bowie! Best of all, the documentary give us archive footage of this (when Bowie went through his soul period on the "Young Americans" album). The person who comes out worst in this documentary is Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector. If you wonder why, just watch! The bigger question relating to those obviously talented singers is why did they not make it big while other less talented singers did? Stevie Wonder comments that "it's not a matter of talent, it's luck and circumstances" and Springsteen says the same but in different words. Bottom line: I enjoyed the documentary quite a bit. It's a slice of life in the music business that we the fans know little about, and Neville has put together an entertaining documentary that also gives some bigger lessons in life. Highly recommended!