Your Favorite Backup Singers

Two of my favorites:

Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt from the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” tour. They’re having a blast and really enhance the performance. I would watch them make sandwiches.

Maybe this isn’t a pure backup role here, but Mavis Staples blows me away in this version of The Band’s “The Weight”. Her father “Pops” does a wonderful job too, but Mavis gives me chills every time I watch it. What a beautiful performance.

Who are your favorites?

The Pips

Any particular Pip?

Nope, all of them. Basically because when they’re backing up, Gladys Knight is singing.

Also the Golddiggers. You don’t even have to listen to them.

You’ve stumped me. Who did the Golddiggers back up? There were the Solid Gold Dancers, and similarly the Fly Girls, who you definitely had no need to listen to.

Dean Martin and theGolddiggers

They sang? I thought they were around to keep him on his feet or from staggering too far off his mark.

It was a multi-faceted job.

Art Garfunkel.

The Vandellas. No reason, just an awesome name.

Meg White

The Three Degrees.

Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan AKA The Turtles AKA Flo and Eddie. Everything from bubblegum pop to Zappa.

The Trio Bulgarkia. Especially on Kate Bush songs like Rocket’s Tale.

But what defines a “backup singer”? Was Claire Tory one on “The Great Gig In The Sky”?

Also my favorite lead singers since the late 60’s.

Another vote for the Pips. Midnight Train to Georgia is the ultimate backup singers song. Great moments . . .
Gladys : I’ll be with him
Pips : I know you will!

and . . .
Gladys : He kept dreamin’ someday he’d be a star
Pips: a superstar but he didn’t get far

The Pips are so important to this song that their parts are included in the lyrics.

Cherilyn Sarkisian. Sang backup on Be My Baby and You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling among many other Spector classics.

There was a Roy Orbison concert that used to show up a lot on PBS pledge drives. They got some serious talent together that night. Singing backup were Bonnie Raitt, k. d. lang, and Jennifer Warnes.

For a single song, I’ve always liked Family Restaurant by Uncle Bonsai. It’s an amusing little ditty, as many Bonsai songs are, but the backup parts give it a faux-operatic seriousness which just makes it all that much funnier.

Lisa Hannigan, though this is more of a duet.

Also, Chrissi Poland from Scissor Sisters.

I didn’t learn until recently that Telma Hopkins, who also backed up Tony Orlando, was one of the backup singers on “Theme From Shaft” by Issac Hayes.

“They say this cat Shaft’s a bad mutha–”
“Shut your mouth!”


That’s Cher.