'20 Feet From Stardom' Backup Singers Feted by YWCA Of Greater Los Angeles

The 120-year-old organization saluted the women for overcoming "all of the obstacles of poverty, prejudice and discouragement" and providing "a powerful inspiration for all challenged urban youth."
Darlene Love in a scene from "Twenty Feet From Stardom." (Courtesy: TWC-RADiUS)

On Tuesday morning, the best documentary feature Oscar nominee 20 Feet From Stardom and those whose stories it features -- backup singers Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, Darlene Love and Tata Vega -- were celebrated by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Greater Los Angeles with the organization's first Courage to Succeed Award. The presentation of the honor -- which was accepted by the film's director, Morgan Neville, and Vega -- took place in the outdoor auditorium of the YWCA-GLA's campus in downtown L.A.

The YWCA-GLA is a 120-year-old organization dedicated to "eliminating racism and empowering women." 20 Feet From Stardom is the longest-running theatrical film release of 2013 (it is still in select theaters) and has grossed more than all but two 2013 documentaries (those devoted to One Direction and Justin Bieber).

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In a statement issued before the ceremony, YWCA-GLA president and CEO Faye Washington said: "This film depicts how these legendary singers overcame all of the obstacles of poverty, prejudice and discouragement to become indispensable elements of the art and industry of rock and roll, blues and gospel. These are the same challenges which face so many of the thousands of young people YWCA-GLA has helped direct to successful lives. 20 Feet From Stardom and its singing stars are a powerful inspiration for all challenged urban youth."

Washington continued, "Apart from the great music, the hope and determination of this film and these women are contagious and can infect our kids with the burning desire to make the most of their lives and to give back to their very needy communities. This award, saluting that, will now be an annual presentation."

At the event itself, Vega, who recently toured with Elton John, informed her audience of several hundred young people that her own youth had reflected theirs and how, rejected by her own family, she had, as a teen, wandered these same streets, homeless, "singing aloud because it was my only salvation of spirit and it brought coins from people who were poor, too, enough small change not to starve." She stressed that "singing saved my life and gave me the self-belief we all need to go forward and be what we can be."  

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg