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'20 Feet' singers to step into Rose Bowl spotlight

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PASADENA, Calif. (AP)

If music was a football game, Lisa Fischer has already been a quarterback and scored game-winning touchdowns.

Fischer's discography includes a number of hits, including the chart-topping, Grammy-winning 1991 ''How Can I Ease the Pain.''

She knows what it's like to be winner. And yet the singer admitted to a bit of anxiety over performing the national anthem at Wednesday's Rose Bowl game.

''(I'm) a ball of fiery, happy nerves,'' Fischer said shortly before a rehearsal Tuesday afternoon.

For the first time in recent memory, a vocal group - including veterans Fischer, Merry Clayton and Darlene Love, as well as relative newcomer Judith Hill - will sing ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' just before the start of one of college football's highest-rated televised games of the year. The anthem is usually performed by one of the team's marching bands.

One estimate, from the San Jose Mercury News, predicted that some 17 million will be watching Michigan State take on Stanford.

That audience will also be hearing the quartet, composed of the principal subjects of the film ''20 Feet from Stardom,'' which documents the trials, tribulations and triumphs of contemporary pop, rock and soul background singers.

But, for the Rose Bowl, the four will be taking the leads.

Noted singer Clayton, perhaps best known for providing the haunting female solo on The Rolling Stones' ''Gimme Shelter'': ''We're sitting here, honey, like we're just really cool. `We are the divas of all time.' But all that diva stuff goes out the window when you step out on that field.''

The film was the top-grossing independent documentary of 2013 and a critical favorite since its debut last January at the Sundance Film Festival. And ''20 Feet'' just may make it to the award-season Super Bowl. It is one of 15 films to make the short list of potential documentary-feature Academy Award nominees, which will be unveiled in a Jan. 16 telecast from Los Angeles.

The success of the movie has brought the four busy backup singers a flurry of fresh, front-and-center opportunities, Fischer said.

''I think it means that we get a chance to come out of the darkness, into the light,'' she explained.

''20 Feet from Stardom'' is now available on iTunes. The 100th Rose Bowl game will be telecast at 5 p.m. EST (2 p.m. PST) New Year's Day on ESPN.

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Online:

http://www.tournamentofroses.com/RoseBowlGame.aspx

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Follow Michael Cidoni Lennox at http://www.twitter.com/CidoniLennox

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