20 Feet from Stardom


This is a good look at music history and a reminder of what the business of Show is really like. It is also a (sometimes) revealing look at the difference between a star and an artist, a performer and a musician. It is definitely a love letter to a number of mostly unrecognized singers who have helped create the sound of the last 60 years,

But despite some great anecdotes, it isn’t a particularly great documentary. It provides glimpses into some lives, but doesn’t really give us a story. It provides histories and details, but not a lot of context. It is simply a somewhat unfocused investigatory human-interest story. That’s doesn’t make it bad, it simply makes me question why it won the Oscar as compared to previous winners like last-year’s Searching for Sugar Man. Then again, I guess we all feel like background singers at some point in our lives, particularly performers. It may have just rung a familiar tone for the voting audience.

Whether you think you love music or not, if you’re over 40 you will learn at least something surprising about the music that evokes different parts of your life. If you’re younger, you’ll learn a lot about the dark underbelly of the glitzy front-end of the bands you love. While the various background singers interviewed continue to work today, their efforts now, outside of their solo attempts, aren’t well covered, possibly by necessity. But overall it shows how art is often collaborative, despite the focus on Stars. If nothing else, exposing the efforts of these tireless performers who have been performing constantly, often longer than most of the people they’ve worked with, was a great gift to the unsung heroes of music. Yeah, I couldn’t resist.

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