For Darlene Love, "Twenty Feet from Stardom" is not only a film, it's the story of her life, and so watching it on opening night of the Miami International Film Festival, and getting to sing about it as well was a thrill for the veteran vocalist, whose voice was a fixture on radio in the 1960s.
"I'm so excited about this film. I saw it a few weeks ago for the first time, and I got rather emotional about it. There were good times and there were bad times," said Love, who is among the singers whose lives are portrayed in the new documentary.
The aptly titled documentary, "Twenty Feet from Stardom," tells of the stories of backup singers, who lend their voices to the records that turn lead singers into such stars as Diana Ross, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and the list goes on.
The film opened the Miami International Film Festival. The festival, which turned 30 this year, continues through Sunday, and by the time the last credits roll, it will have screened 117 feature films and 12 shorts from 42 countries at screens throughout Miami and Miami Beach.
As the film notes, some backup singers are content to stay in the background, while others, like Diana Ross and Sheryl Crow, go on to successful solo careers. But some who try fail, as did Love. In fact, she had given up on the music industry and, disillusioned, was cleaning other people's houses when one day, during the holiday season, she heard her 1963 hit, "Christmas (Baby, Won't You Please Come Home)" come on the radio.
Love quit her cleaning job, relaunched her career, and now makes her living again as a singer, and her performance of that hit has become a holiday staple on "Late Night with David Letterman" for the past 25 years. She's also finally achieved her own star turn, and, in 2011, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
After the film's credits rolled, Love strode onto the stage of the Olympia Theater of the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts and electrified the audience with her a cappella rendition of the song "Lean on Me,' which she also performs in the movie.
"When I sang this song in the movie, it was almost more than I could take, because that's what backup singers do, the lead singers know we are there to support them," Love told the audience afterwards.
Nowadays, she sometimes sings backup, and she sometimes sings lead, but whichever role she takes doesn't matter because she is singing, she said. "What I'm doing is telling the world that I know my voice is a gift from God, and I'm going to use it."
More info: Miami International Film Festival