Film review: 20 Feet From Stardom

Grammy nominated music video director Morgan Neville collected this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for this rousing, feel-good portrait of some of the unknown voices behind music’s most recognisable hits.

This film celebrates the invaluable contributions of backing singers to the music industry and introduces us to a few of the talented women, whose tireless work in music studios and at concert venues is often taken for granted by the fans.

Undated Film Still Handout from Twenty Feet From Stardom. Pictured: Jo Lawry, Judith Hill, Lisa Fischer. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Graham Willoughby/Tremolo Productions. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

Undated Film Still Handout from Twenty Feet From Stardom. Pictured: Jo Lawry, Judith Hill, Lisa Fischer. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Graham Willoughby/Tremolo Productions. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

It’s a rich, detailed and inspiring valentine to those people behind the scenes who deserve so much credit, but rarely get it: like singer Merry Clayton, who sings a key phrase in the chorus of the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter.

Divas abound of every age and background, from seventy-something trailblazer Darlene Love, who worked with The Beach Boys, Tom Jones, Elvis Presley and Dionne Warwick, to relative newcomer Judith Hill, who was rejected during the live finals of the 2013 series of The Voice in America.

Neville intercuts interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the backing singers with anecdotes and tributes from luminaries including Sheryl Crow, Bette Midler, Sting and Stevie Wonder.

20 Feet From Stardom appeals to our basic human desire to champion the underdog, reminding us that behind every recording artist is a panoply of brilliant people, whose contributions are reduced to credits on an album sleeve.