'20 Feet From Stardom' Screened At Guild Hall

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Legendary former talk show host Dick Cavett was on hand Sunday evening for a screening that gives the backup singers of the pop world their time in the spotlight.

The documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” documents the vocal work of backup singers whose names are rarely known, but whose voices are instantly reconginzable.

CBS Sunday Morning spoke with Merry Clayton, who was hired by Ray Charles as one of the Raelettes in 1966, and went on to sing with Joe Cocker, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand and the Doors, among others, according to CBS Sunday Morning. She was also the vocalist who sang, “War, children, it’s just a shot away,” in the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

“My job is to make them look incredible and sound incredible, because I am going to be on my thing,” Clayton told CBS News’ Ben Tracy.

Another backup singer, Lisa Fischer, attended the screening. She has worked with everyone from Tina Turner to Beyonce, and from Chaka Khan to Alicia Keys, according to published reports. She also had a hit of her own, “How Can I Ease the Pain,” in 1992.

At the screening, Fischer described signing as a “spiritual” experience of expressing thoughts and emotions through music and lyrics, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.

While Fischer is depicted in the documentary as being very comfortable as a backup singer, she is considered a premier and in-demand singer who did not strive to have fame on her own, Papa reported.

Cavett asked Fischer if she ever craved the material things, to which she replied, “Have you seen my apartment?” Her modest-looking apartment appears in the film, Papa reported.

Cavett – who hosted television and radio talk shows on and off between 1968 and 2007 – talked with Fischer as part of a question-and-answer session after the screening. The Guild Hall event also featured a vocal performance by Fisher, Papa reported.

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