20 Feet from Stardom

20FeetFromStardom Backup singers are like ghost writers. The invisibles.

20 Feet From Stardom tells the story of some of the legendary backup singers you’ve never heard of. It’s a poignant story, told with bursts of beguiling harmonies, of the different mindset of the backup singer who goes for the blend and the lead singer who basks in individuality. And the near impossibility to move from the back to front and center.

Where did the backup singers come from? Most of them were pastor’s daughters who grew up singing melodies, harmonies, and call-and-response, in church. Music was their oxygen. They didn’t require written music; they could hear the chords in their head and make magical tones singing together.

A few quotes:

Stay cool.
Stay humble.
Stay beautiful.
Do the work.
— Merry Clayton

It’s more than leaning on your talent. You gotta be disciplined. You gotta get up in the morning.
— Tata Vega

Real musicians—there’s a spiritual component to what they do that’s got nothing to do with worldly success. Their music is much more an inner journey. Any other success is just cream on the cake. There’s this idea that you can go on American Idol and suddenly become a star; but you may bypass the spiritual work you have to do to get there. And if you bypass that, our success will be wafer thin.

— Sting

Fun catch: Ashley Cleveland, my walking partner (by me listening to her CDs, we’ve never met) has a cameo appearance at 87:14.


Les Misérables – No Spoilers

I had planned on a solo viewing of Les Misérables. My husband doesn’t do musicals. But, he replied, I do dates with my wife. He was familiar with the story: we had watched the 1998 film with Liam Neeson.

In some mysterious way, Curt has learned how to see things in movies that astonishes me. In a movie about redemption, there are many symbols. But when we got home, Curt pointed out three crosses that you should look for when you watch this film. There is a cross of slavery, a cross of redemption, and a cross of salvation.


Ken Burns on Story

A poignant view of the personal side of filmmaker Ken Burns, pioneer of the “Ken Burns Effect,” the panning and zooming of still photos to create a sense of movement.

His mother died of cancer when he was 11. 

“It might be that what I’m engaged in, in an historical pursuit, is a thin layer of perhaps a thickly disguised waking of the dead…that I try to make Abraham Lincoln, and Jackie Robinson, and Louis Armstrong come alive. And it may be very obvious and very close to home who I’m actually trying to wake up.”