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Oscar-Nominated Documentary Shines Spotlight On Backup Singers12:45
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From left to right, singers Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, Darlene Love and Lisa Fischer pose for a portrait at the Rose Bowl. (Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP)
From left to right, singers Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, Darlene Love and Lisa Fischer pose for a portrait at the Rose Bowl. (Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Warren Zanes' story is one of many that speaks to the chaos and the unpredictability of the music industry.

He formed the Boston-based band, the Del Fuegos, in 1980 with his brother, Dan Zanes. After releasing three albums in seven years, Warren quit the group and has since obtained a Ph.D. He's served as vice president of education at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, and he's written a book on Dusty Springfield.

Most recently, however, he was consulting producer on an Oscar-nominated documentary, "20 Feet From Stardom."

The film centers on the background singers we hear in some of rock 'n' roll's greatest hits — the women behind the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," Lynard Skynard's "Sweet Home Alabama" and David Bowie's "Young Americans."

"You know, when you think about the history of pop music and all the memorable hooks that people sing along with, they're singing with us most of the time," says Janice Pendarvis, a background singer for Sting. "That's what we do on records, we come in and sing the hooks."

WBUR's Lisa Mullins sat down with Zanes talk about the film, which is kicking off Mass MoCA's 2014 documentary film series tonight.

Guest

Warren Zanes, consulting producer on "20 Feet From Stardom." Zanes is a former member of the Del Fuegos, and the author of "Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis." He's also executive director of Rock and Roll: An American Story, an online educational resource by Steven Van Zandt's Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. See tweets from the film at @20ftFromStardom.

More

Rolling Stone: Mick Jagger Bringing '20 Feet From Stardom' To TV And Broadway

  • "Mick Jagger is planning on spending some time out of the spotlight so others can have a turn. The Rolling Stones front man is currently looking into turning 20 Feet From Stardom — the Oscar-nominated documentary that tells the stories of several important backup singers and featured interviews with Jagger — into a one-hour scripted TV series and a Broadway musical."

The Daily Beast: ‘20 Feet From Stardom’: Judith Hill, Darlene Love, And Lisa Fischer Star In The Oscar-Shortlisted Documentary

  • "When I saw the finished product I was so proud. They dug into this. The people they got to talk—Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, Stevie Wonder—these guys are the best when it comes to background. They care about their background singers. It was amazing to me that they got those guys."

This segment aired on January 30, 2014.

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