Backup Singers Take 20 Giant Steps Forward

Over the past few months the documentary “20 Steps From Stardom” has been showing up in limited release.  Directed by Morgan Neville, an Emmy winning and Grammy nominated creator of music documentaries, the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013 and tells the stories of women whose vocals have been so much more than “backup” for decades of hits.  This clip from begins with an interview of Merry Clayton telling the improbable story of one of the most memorable pieces of backup work ever.

While these backup singers remain largely unknown, big stars cover their iconic vocal tracks. Here are a couple working to capture the magic that Merry Clayton created. The first clip features Alicia Keys at the New York Live Earth concert in 2007 (this is a great performance if you’ve never seen it), and the second features a Lady Gaga cameo at an early date on the Stones’ 50 & Counting tour.

And, of course, we can’t end without hearing the original in all its glory.

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