Talking about their experiences is another matter. Some of the anecdotes are tinged with a little regret, but more typical is Claudia Linnear — shown performing backup on “Wah-Wah.” She talks about how special it was to be a part of George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh. If she harbors any ill will against Harrison or Eric Clapton or Ringo or Leon Russell for being the stars, you’d never know it. Of course, she might just have too much class to kvetch, but she sounds genuine.
Some of the sequences are very telling. The most extensive coverage is probably given to Merry Clayton recording the famous “Rape, murder! It’s just a shot away” for the Rolling Stones on “Gimme Shelter.” (Lisa Fischer now tours with the Stones and performs this part.) The film never quite answers why these women — with the exception of Darlene Love — never had the careers or the credit they ought to have had. Probably it’s unanswerable, but it’s nonetheless a treat — and a kind of validation — to see and hear them here. The decision to end the film with Darlene Love singing Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” was a masterstroke that imbues the proceedings with an emotional resonance unlike anything in the movie.
The Fine Arts Theatre will host screenings of 20 Feet from Stardom on Thu., Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. and Fri., Sept 18 at 4 p.m. Lisa Fischer, who is featured in the film, will be in attendance and will be available for questions after the screenings. Price for the screenings is $10. Ms. Fischer is also performing at the Diana Wortham Theatre on Friday, Sept, 18 at 8 p.m.