20 Feet from Stardom 3.0 stars

20 Feet from Stardom movie poster

Darlene Love is the Jackie Robinson of session groups, a black backup singer who worked furiously to crack the majors by lending her formidable talent (and tonsils) to everyone from Bobby "Boris" Pickett to the Chairman of the Board. Forced to "ghost" for Phil Spector under whatever band name he decided to stick her with that week, Love eventually took to cleaning houses to keep afloat. Morgan Neville’s 20 Feet From Stardom introduces us to Love, Merry Clayton (the clarion voice crying “Rape! Murder!” on the Stones’ "Gimme Shelter"), Tata Vega, Claudia Lennear, and many other unsung vocalists whose talent frequently outshines that of the headliners. It’s rare when a feel-good "triumph of the human spirit" picture gets to me. But watching Ms. Love’s climactic induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame left me wet-eyed. With Mick Jagger and a sorely-in-need-of-subtitles Bruce Springsteen. 2013.

Scott Marks

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