On my music teacher’s recommendation, I watched the film “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” a film about backup singers and their influence on the music we all know and love. The film featured mostly women of color who were left behind in many ways, even as they were significant to the recordings that were made. One of these is Darlene Love, who was repeatedly done wrong by that (I think we all can agree) snake, Phil Spector.
The film made me think about these singers in an entirely new light. It helped me see that their journey was not easy, even as they were surrounded by immense talent and star power. Darlene even resorted to cleaning houses for a while.
I want to pay a little tribute to a backup singer I was aware of in the 1970’s. Rosemary Butler sang backup for Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Linda Ronstadt — I saw her in all her incarnations. For example, she sings a solo part on Browne’s “Stay” which is a large part of why the song is so memorable. When I would attend a concert and see Butler on stage, I knew we were in for a treat.
Try to imagine this song without Rosemary’s contribution:
The singers in the background contribute quite a bit to the sound of the recording — more than they are given credit for most of the time. Check out the film (I believe it is on Netflix.) You’ll hear music in a whole new way.