Written by | Ray Cornelius 

I had a blast hosting a post film discussion of the Oscar-winning documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” on this past Wednesday evening. The screening took place at Georgia State’s Rialto Center for the Arts and featured a lively conversation between me and three amazing Atlanta-based vocalists—Keisha Jackson, Rhonda Thomas and Debra Killings.

Ray Cornelius with Keisha Jackson, Rhonda Thomas and Debra Killings 

“20 Feet From Stardom” is a 2013 film that puts a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others.  The featured performers include Táta Vega, Judith Hill, Darlene Love, Merry ClaytonClaudia Lennear and The Waters. It also features Lisa Fischer, who’ll be appearing at the Rialto Center later on this month.

Ray Cornelius with Keisha Jackson 

During the conversation, the ladies opened up about their amazing careers as background singers and solo artists. Jackson is the daughter of R&B, Soul and Blues diva, Millie Jackson and has sung on recording with Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton. She has also sung on stage with Outkast and Erykah Badu. Thomas is a singer-songwriter who performed 11 years with the late Isaac Hayes. She has also appeared at NYC’s Apollo Theater and has shared the stage with Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack and Roy Ayers. Killings is also an accomplished singer-songwriter and bassist, who has performed alongside such legendary artists as Madonna, TLC, Carlos Santana and LL Cool J.

Rhonda Thomas 

Throughout the conversation, the ladies shared a variety of funny stories about their interactions with these big named artists as well as the lessons they learned from them. They also dished about the “business” of show business and paying your dues as an emerging artist. We also took a few questions from the audience that was full of film lovers and music enthusiasts.

Thank you Rialto Center and ladies for the opportunity to talk with you and share those precious memories. Click here to purchase your tickets to see Lisa Fischer on Saturday, October 28 at 8 p.m.

Photo Credits: Mark Angel and Dr. Yamma Brown