Monday, June 24, 2013
Superstars in the shadows
The movie is about backup singers – those incredibly talented musicians who you rarely hear about but are on all your favorite records and sing at all the big concerts. You realize that artists like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega, and others are every bit as good or better than the singers they back.
Some try to go solo, like Merry Clayton (who did have one big hit “Oh No, Not My Baby”), Judith Hill (briefly on THE VOICE), Darlene Love (“Just One Look”), and Lisa Fischer (who even won a Grammy), but due to circumstances, timing, that asshole Phil Spector (they should add another five years to his sentence just for how he treated Darlene Love), personality, and luck these superstars primarily live in the shadows.
Being a longtime music freak I do know of many of these singers. I rarely get star struck but meeting Darlene Love backstage during her run in HAIRSPRAY on Broadway was like meeting the Beatles. And to think that only a few years before she was cleaning peoples’ homes.
The movie resonated even more with me because backup singers are somewhat akin to comedy writers. We’re only 20 feet off camera, and just as Merry Clayton can say she sang with Ray Charles, did the amazing solo on the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”, and appeared on hundreds of hit records, there are writers who are not “Steve Levitan”, or “Chuck Lorre” who have had spectacular careers but you might not know their names.
But at least writers do get credits (even if they're on the screen for one nanosecond). Not so with backup singers. Hopefully at least their movie will play in a theater near you. And there is that chance – because Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, and Bette Midler are featured in it. Look for their names on the marquee.
UPDATE: So sorry to hear of the passing of Gary David Goldberg. Will write my thoughts tonight and share tomorrow in this space. My love to his family.