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20 Feet from Stardom
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this fascinating documentary takes a look at some of the music industry's most important, and often ignored, performers. These background singers have been on stage with the greats of rock and roll, often providing haunting vocals to classic tracks. Yet until now, many have remained mostly anonymous. 20 Feet From Stardom is an attempt to remedy this travesty. Expect a few drug references, the word "ass," and a few clips featuring women in scanty costumes.
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What's the story?
There are the headliners, and then there are the back-up singers, who are away from the klieg lights, the essential cherry on top of a musical sundae, without whom a performance isn't complete. In the documentary 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, the likes of Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, and Tata Vega finally get their close-up, in a story about talent not fully appreciated, grace, heartache, tenacity, disappointment, and relentless commitment to making good music.
Is it any good?
20 Feet From Stardom is an absolute thrill, a chance to see the faces behind the voices backing the biggest names in music -- Ray Charles, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones, to start. They have long deserved the spotlight, and the documentary gives them their due, allowing each subject to share not only their vocal genius, but also their histories, professional and personal. The music, phenomenal here, takes second position to the singers, most of whom are yet to become household names, despite decades in the business.
Apart from being enormously interesting and entertaining (plenty of scenes feature big-name stars like Sting and Bruce Springsteen), the film offers choice surprises, including the fact that Sheryl Crow was once a backup singer; that many, like Darlene Love, have "ghost-sung" for other singers; and that a lot of these crooners, most of them women, sing even better than those who've "made it." The revelations are allowed their time in the sun, their rightful place in American history explored, but free of the heavy-handedness that plagues some documentaries. 20 Feet From Stardom is confidently told, expertly filmed, and entirely inspiring. See it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how it must feel to be in the background. What do you think about the relationship between the big-name stars and the background singers?
How do the lives and careers of background singers differ from the stars they support? Do they seem like the stereotypical rock stars?
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