'Stardom' gives voice to unknown backup singers

Akron Beacon JournalJanuary 16, 2014 


    These DVDs were released this week:

    Films: Lee Daniels' The Butler; Fruitvale Station; Enough Said; Riddick; The Spectacular Now; Short Term 12; Blue Caprice (story of the 2002 Washington-area snipers, as told through the killers' eyes); A.C.O.D. (comedy on adult children of divorce); Carrie (horror film remake); You're Next; Big Sur; A Single Shot; Four; I'm in Love With a Church Girl; Richard the Lionheart; In Montauk; Paradise: Hope (final installment in Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy); Plus One; Rififi (1955, by once-blacklisted director Jules Dassin, Criterion Collection); Terraferma (2011, Italy); Thief (1981, by Michael Mann, Criterion Collection); Pride and Prejudice: Keepsake Edition (A&E version); Be My Valentine (Hallmark Channel movie); Wolverine vs. Sabretooth (animated).

    TV series: The Universe in 3D: A Whole New Dimension (History channel); Top Gear: Season 20 (BBC); The Americans: Season 1; SpongeBob and Friends: Patrick SquarePants (14 episodes); Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 2001; Power Rangers Megaforce: The Mysterious Robo Knight; Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey (British ITV series).


With the Golden Globes behind us and the Oscar nominations just announced, debate about the best movies in the land is peaking — and distributors aim to take advantage of the interest. This week, for example, included the release of half a dozen highly praised features, three of which showcase black performers.

Those three are Lee Daniels' The Butler ($29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 DVD/Blu-ray/digital combo), Fruitvale Station ($29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo) and 20 Feet From Stardom ($19.98 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray).

The most transcendent of the trio is the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom because of two elements: Merry Clayton and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love.

The film by Morgan Neville follows some of the great background singers in music history, including Clayton, whose vocal power made the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter a classic, and Love, who not only was part of Phil Spector's ensemble of talent but proved how much she deserved to move to the front of the stage with classics like the original Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

Both are interviewed in the film, which also presents singers like Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer and Judith Hill, and interviews with admiring musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Sting. If you ever doubt the merits of the vocalists, there are plenty of music clips to remove those doubts. But the film makes clear that talent and skill were not enough for many of these performers; Love, for one, notes the way Spector would use her vocals but not give her full credit.

Extras include deleted scenes and a Q&A with Love, Clayton, Fischer and Neville.

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