MONDAY BYTES – July 29, 2013
Have you seen 20 Feet from Stardom? Directed by Morgan Neville, a fantastic documentary about some of this country’s top backup singers and it’s been playing in select theaters since mid-June. I’ve seen it now twice in Boston and I’m recommending it to ALL.
It’s rare for a film, even a documentary, can get so much right about performing and about musicians, their motivations, career trade-offs, the highs and the disappointments. The interviews and the editing—the weaving of 5 or 6 different singers’ stories in with terrific performances—it’s just a knockout. And there’s even supporting interview clips from the stars these women sing backup for. So Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and Mick Jagger, all have cameo interviews.
But one of the standout moments of the film is the part of Lisa Fischer’s interview in which she’s describing what singing, what performing, feels like to her. And she’s actually describing being “in the zone” — that for her it feels like a kind of floating, like a feather in motion, borne in the air—and that the travel is easy and there’s no worries about where or how she lands.
And it’s clear in the performance and rehearsal clips when we hear her: she gets there.
There’s also terrific footage about how these musicians deal with the ego issues and in effect—what being a top ensemble musician and a top session musician really involves. It’s SO great to see and hear something that truly speaks truth across all genres and disciplines. These are issues for all performing artists.
Over the course of the film, there’s a kind of enumeration of all the qualities it takes to move from being backup to being the headliner, but it’s a slippery equation. And there’s a real acknowledgement of the toll this takes, and also that happiness comes it many flavors.
Question to consider: What’s your operating equation for success? Complete this and please send in yours:
It takes talent + hard work + luck + . . . . = ?
And if you haven’t seen the movie, please do—and let me know what you think!
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Dream big, Plan smart, Live well!