Defining the subtle, but game changing, differences between talent and stardom
on some of the major singers who have backed up the stars and generally stood ten to twenty feet away from them.
The ethnic dynamic over the past sixty years intrigues. It was based primarily on white male singers, such as Perry Como in one clip, with white female background singers. They were supposed to sound ‘sweet.’ Simultaneously, in the R&B world, it was black male singers with black female backup singers in a ‘call and response’ format that had originated in African American Baptist churches. The British Invasion brought in white male singers, who wanted black female backup singers and this practice expanded to include American male and female star singers, who adopted many of the same performers.
|Darlene Love Today|
Darlene Love’s annual Christmas appearance on Letterman has been a fixture for us, but to see and learn more of Love’s career is a tragedy. She was basically a pawn for Phil Spector’s ego – he was the one who wanted to be a star. She led The Blossoms, a group that basically did most of the singing for Spector, but received little credit. However, those in the business were well aware of her contributions. Lisa Fischer’s voice is a force field of elasticity. She can sound like almost anything, which may be one reason that her sound is not one of stardom; it’s not immediately identifiable. She seems at peace with her lot in the business and life. Her personal authenticity astonishes, especially when compared to Mariah Carey, who came up at the same time and has always seemed like an animatronic to me, at least in her public persona.
|Luther Vandross as a Backup Singer|
I think many can relate to this because haven’t we all wondered why someone got a break that we privately thought we deserved more? As an examination of performance and talent, it works. Where it achieves something more classic is that elusive combination of luck, timing, and desire in considering who rises to the top and who has to find ways to feel otherwise satisfied.