Overlooked and underappreciated, backup singers—for everyone from Elvis to Madonna—finally get their turn in the spotlight in the rollicking yet bittersweet documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom. Here are three who deserve to have their names on the marquee.
Backup bona fides: Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young
Star power: A little after midnight one night in 1969, Clayton received a call from the Stones, asking her to come to a Los Angeles studio. Pregnant, in silk pajamas and hair curlers, she delivered the spine—tingling chorus of "Gimme Shelter"—War, children, it's just a shot away.
Backup bona fides: Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley
Star power: Love, singing lead, took the 1962 single "He's a Rebel" to No. 1, but no one knew—producer Phil Spector credited the song to his newly minted girl group the Crystals. In 2011, two years after Spector was sentenced to 19 years for murder, Love was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Backup bona fides: Tina Turner, Sting, Madonna
Star power: After years of backing up her songwriting mentor, Luther Vandross, Fischer released her debut solo album, So Intense, in 1991, and won a Grammy for the single "How Can I Ease the Pain." She has toured with the Rolling Stones since 1989, often singing Clayton's part on "Gimme Shelter."
Listen to Fischer, Love, Clayton, and plenty of fellow vocal luminaries in our Details playlist, "Great Moments in Back-Up."
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