I am supposed to be working on a redraft of a short story and it’s going well. But a few days ago, a certain member of the household brought to my attention the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, which is about backing vocalists, their talent and harmony, and the power they brought to the rock songs we hear so often. I have become obsessed with this film, and with the songs in it – so I cannot push it from the front of my brain down to the back and am utterly distracted. Just download it and watch. If it doesn’t stay in your heart, you are surely made of stone.
There were so many moving moments – I will never listen to “Gimme Shelter” in the same way again now that I have heard Merry Clayton’s raw and powerful vocal – but one that really stayed in my heart was one of the singer Lisa Fischer multitracked on Samuel Barber’s “Sure on this Shining Night”. Each time a new line occurred, the film “cloned” another Lisa singing into a mike in the studio, until the room was full of Lisas, all singing.
I tracked down the song on Spotify and when I heard the purity of the words and melody, its beauty and pathos, its sublime and ineluctible sadness, I thought: that’s what I’ve always wanted to write. If White Feathers could be a song, and if it could be one like this, I would be very happy indeed.