Eyvonne Williams

 
 

POV (Blog)

"20 Feet From Stardom"

 

Reflections on the film “20 Feet From Stardom”

January 21, 2014

As one of many independent artists and studio singers I was pleased to see part of my story be told and watch it rise in the ranks with other powerful films to Oscar consideration and nomination to achieve the best in its category. This well-made and engaging film hits the mark of effective filmmaking and documentary story telling in that the narratives of each of the four main characters are clear and distinct. Visuals complementing the interviews bring out layers of thought-provoking and emotion-filled subtext.  It corrects some misconceptions about this elite group of unsung singers, and artfully brings in humor and sass while removing the mystique surrounding their climb for success.    However, after viewing it three times the emotions with which I was left by the end of the movie, was overwhelming sadness.

Being a creative artist for years I had the front row seat in an arena where I performed as a nightclub and concert soloist, as a touring background singer, as a recording studio singer, as an actor, and, as a writer.  With a microphone to my face and pen in my hand, I sang and wrote about what I saw and felt from almost every angle.  I took it all in with musicians behind me, singers next to me, and audiences in front of me.   One would think that having this 360-degree view would create a balanced perspective on discovering the perfect plan in how to become famous.  But it doesn’t work that way.  

The title “20 feet from stardom” is a catchy phrase, but it is a misnomer.  There can never be a distance or a journey between those two worlds because the universe in which a background singer lives, survives, and thrives is mutually exclusive of the universe of a solo artist.  They are two distinct existences, two different journeys and one rarely leads to the other, 20 feet, 20 miles, or even 20 light years for that matter. Paraphrasing what Judith Hill so aptly put what you think is a platform could very well be quicksand.

The filmmaker acknowledges that many of these singers in the film came from church backgrounds with ‘special giftings’; as a woman of faith I believe that all gifts are from God; they are pure and perfect.  I also understand that these God-given gifts can only prosper within the realm of their God-intended purposes.  As imperfect human beings we often mishandle and misdirect them.  Because the desire for significance and recognition is hardwired in our spirit’s DNA, every individual strives to express their significance in dramatic ways.  This ignites a natural pursuit for stardom.  It is as natural as the need for food, as real and as compelling as the lust for dragon’s gold.  But God-given gifts must operate within the context of God-intended purposes in order to produce a successful life.  If the gift does not function in the fashion that God intended, the blessing of having it will more than likely become a curse.  We see evidence in the news and across social media of many who missed the mark in a grand leap for stardom only to become lost in space, burned out , or self-destroyed.  

As performers we strive for Grammy, Oscar, Emmy, Tony or the 'hit song' or Rock n' Roll Hall of fame.  These are natural pursuits.  But somehow these validations have become the trademark to stardom that validates our God-given significance.  But the truth is that we are all already 'stars' with great significance that God validates all the time, in quiet ways, with great sacrifice, sometimes with great human awards, and sometimes not.  

“Who would want to make a career of singing background, I wouldn’t,” was a comment in the film. There would not be enough validation from the world from that position, I guess. But I cannot imagine music without background singers; it's like flowers without fragrance, food without salt, nature without color.  There are greater rewards that Children of God who carry gifts should know.  We are stars in the invisible realm of God’s kingdom and are given a specific command:

Directive--                  “Let your light so shine

Where--                      before men

Why--                         That they may see your good works 

For what purpose--   to glorify God who is in heaven

God gives the gifts for the express purpose of glorifying Him which will count toward the greatest reward we could ever receive.  

 

So stardom is already in place for each of us.  And our significance comes in association with his covenant agreement with us.  To me that’s powerful.

Sometimes I think with such talent and gifts we desire to win the prize over and above the true reward of glorifying God.  Having a mantel and walls covered with awards and prizes may not necessarily glorify God…..   Everyone may not understand this truth and are therefore not freed from the material aspect that notoriety, money, and the pride of life often bring.

In actuality God does not need our awards to glorify Him, but He does need the light of our lives and good works.  With that in mind the rewards will come.  Perhaps even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

We as singers must not allow the struggle for fortune and glory to change us.   "20 Feet from Stardom" can easily become "20 Feet from Starvation."