In the superb documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, the talented back-up singers for Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Rolling Stones, Sting and Tina Turner finally get their time in center stage. Here, multiple singers dating from the early '60s reflect on paying their dues with hopes of crossing over into the mainstream and priceless memories from their storied careers.
Director Morgan Neville skillfully draws emotions ranging from frustrations with show business to humor as Darlene Love recalls her work on the classic "Monster Mash" as well as the irony of how the British offered more artistic freedom to U.S. soul singers.
The footage and interviews used in 20 Feet from Stardom are absolutely extraordinary. Coming from somebody who was drawn to the vocal powerhouses such as Culture Club's Helen Terry, Pet Shop Boys' Sylvia Mason-James and Sylvester's Two Tons o' Fun, this film is much overdue for these underappreciated heroes of the industry.
The companion soundtrack to 20 Feet from Stardom is out now via Columbia Records. Solo efforts as well as the popular hits with divas on support vocals are featured here, including the favorites "Wild Side" by Lou Reed, "Slippery People" by Talking Heads, "He's a Rebel" by The Crystals and "Young Americans" by David Bowie. Love's "A Fine, Fine Boy" includes the producer's direction on how to adjust her vocals. The sequence as Lisa Fischer sings "Sure on This Shining Light" silenced the theater in awe. The newly recorded material spotlights the talented songbirds, especially Judith Hill's "Desperation."
Sylvester shattered many barriers as an out, Black disco star in the '70s. Fantasy Records just issued the new compilation Mighty Real: Greatest Dance Hits. This captures the decadence of the hey-day of disco with "Dance (Disco Heat)," "Can't Stop Dancing" and "Body Strong." His biggest hit, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," appears here twicefirst with the Ralphi Rosario Dub Mix, which modernizes the best traits of the original and then as the vintage 12" Mix. Sylvester's gospel roots are shown on "Sell My Soul" and "Changes." Sylvester's sound and stunning falsetto are saluted and sampled to this day.
In his will, the late Sylvester arranged to have his music royalties benefit two charities, The AIDS Emergency Fund and Project Open. In 2005 Joshua Gamson wrote the biography The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend. While we still wait for a biopic, the icon was the topic of an episode of Unsung on TVOne.
As one half of Two Tons o' Fun and The Weather Girls, Martha Wash belted out jams ranging from the campy anthem "It's Raining Men" to the disco love song "Just Us." The veteran released Something Good on her Purple Rose Records label. Shedding her image as a dance diva, Wash delivers eight inspirational gems here, most notably a remarkable rendition of Aerosmith's "Dream On." "I've Got You" is a show-stopping power ballad. The other highlights are the more upbeat "Alright," "It's My Time" and the title track. Considering her history with clubland, remixes seem inevitable. Something Good is available now.
Having just raved about Steve Grand's clip "All-American Boy," there is another video telling the story of a budding gay relationship. The tale in Eli Lieb's "Young Love" lands between Rihanna's "We Found Love" and Grand's breakthrough hit. Here, Lieb brings a pop-rock feel as if Bryan Adams' carefree earlier work landed in current times. Lieb's self-released, self-titled debut is available now, as are his reworking of pop hits like Adele's "Someone Like You," Maroon 5's "Payphone" and Rihanna's "Stay." To purchase downloads and for more information, visit elilieb.com .
On July 16, Marc Anthony sang "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch of the All-Star Game in Queens, N.Y. Spectators took to Twitter with rants ranging from the Grammy winner performing this song is un-American to false citations that Anthony was not born in the United States and that AutoTune-dependent popstar Ke$ha should be singing at the game instead. Others came out to support Anthony's performance, correct the misinformed about his place of birth and celebrate our nation's diversity. The New York City-born singer has a new salsa album, 3.0, due out this month.
When I first heard that A Great Big World is releasing a track named "Everyone Is Gay," I immediately thought of the lyrics to Nirvana's "All Apologies," as Curt Cobain sang, "What else can I say? Everyone is gay." Alas, this perky singalong proclaims our similarities regardless of sexual orientation. The song is the result of a challenge from the people behind the website that offers LGBTQ-youth advice, everyoneisgay.com . The composition has a great, positive message, fitting for an episode of Glee. The duo's song "This Is the New Year" was performed on an episode of the FOX primetime hit program.
In an all-too-familiar-report, Cory Monteith is the latest star lost too soon due to drug addictions. Monteith will be forever remembered for his role on Glee as the loveable Finn Hudson, who proved athletes can join the choir. In an episode during the second season dedicated to Lady Gaga, Monteith's character boldly defended Chris Colfer's Kurt, as the football star came to school decked out like one of Gaga's little monsters. Monteith had spoken openly about his previous stints in rehab. He died at age 31.