Chattering Class

Back-up singers in pop music history

What’s a classic pop song without a catchy hook? Often those are sung by background vocalists who may never see their name in lights – or even printed in the liner notes. Darlene Love provided harmonies (and lead lines) on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s – singing with artists from Elvis Presley to Sam Cooke to Sonny & Cher – and while she’s a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer now, she’s the rare back-up singer to make a name in her own right.

The new documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom digs into the role of background singers and the struggles they face when they try to break out. Brendan joins Darlene and the film’s director Morgan Neville for a conversation about these under-sung stars. (The film opens this weekend, and the companion soundtrack hits stores 6/18.)