Love Idol 6

For the next few Wednesdays in Lent, I’ll be talking about Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book “Love Idol,” which released on March 25, 2014.

On Friday night, when it was just me and the puppies at home, I rented the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom.” It just won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. It’s about backup singers. Tagline: “Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names.”

It’s heartbreaking.

Oh, it’s great — don’t get me wrong. Fabulous, fabulous music sung by women who … it’s unbelievable what they can do with their voices. The heartbreaking part is that very few people outside of industry insiders know their names. Many of them have tried to launch solo careers, and for whatever reason it didn’t work. A few theories are proposed, but each one falls flat next to these women’s voices.

You know who else was basically a backup singer? A fellow in the Bible I’d never heard of until I read Jennifer’s book “Love Idol.” Apelles.

“Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ,” (Romans 16:10).

“That’s all that Paul wrote about Apelles. Just one sentence, nothing else,” Jennifer writes. “No accolades or applause or records of great conquests.”

So, imagine Paul as the lead singer. He’s one of the guys featured in this film — Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger. And Apelles is the backup singer you’ve never heard of — Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear and Lisa Fischer.

“I felt like if I just gave my heart to what I was doing, I would automatically become a star,” said Merry Clayton (“Gimme Shelter,” The Rolling Stones).

Things got so bad for Darlene Love (“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”) that she started cleaning houses.

I cried right there on my couch. I wanted to stand up and tell these women they are preapproved. That it doesn’t matter that so few people knew who they were. They’re amazing. They made the careers of these lead artists. And they have gotten to do what they love for a living — sing. They just sang 20 feet from stardom.

Most of us will be more like Apelles than Paul. We’ll never be the stars, the ones with the name recognition. We may be 50 feet, maybe even 1,000 feet from stardom. We can still bring all of our talent and passion to what we do. We are still preapproved, whether anyone knows it or not.


  1. Nailed it.

  2. This is wonderful, Megan!

  3. Very, very good…
    Who knows what makes the difference for one and not for another when it comes to reaching “stardom” or any other marker of success? All I know is this: I can be who I am without anyone ever knowing who I am. This world is not all there is to our lives. There’s so much more to come. “Tested and approved” here for God’s purposes here and there!

  4. James Taylor’s singers and Sting’s are outstanding. I’ve always been amazed by their talent, but it’s true I never knew their names.

    Most of us are backup singers–may we sing with all we have in us, even if no one recognizes our talent…or our names.

  5. Well said Megan.

  6. Wow. Ain’t that the truth. Most of us will never be the stars. Hopefully we can learn to be really fine back-up singers. :>)

  7. Megan, I’m so old I actually heard Merry Clayton sing in person at her very own concert back in the 70’s. (Trivia, I know.)
    And Darlene Love? I think she might know Jesus; at the Academy Awards she burst into “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and got a standing ovation.

    But still, you’ve got a point–Apelles’ name is (I think) the only one in God’s book.
    Altho’ we can’t ever know for sure….

    Excellent post–so glad you wrote this series.

  8. I think I’d skipped right over Apelles before. Didn’t notice him. Glad Paul did. And God.

  9. Funny, there can be a Love Idol problem, too, in wanting to be the backup singer. I’ve had to sing 3 solos in my life, and they all were terrible experiences. But what if I had just quit being self-conscious and simply had fun with it? I was thinking: “If I sing by myself, people will know that I don’t sing that well, and they won’t approve…”

    In grade school, when I was walking to my Chris’s house on report card day, she told me I should lie to her grandma about my straight-A report card (so that her grandma wouldn’t be upset about her grades). I lied to Mrs. Gonzalez, whom I truly loved and respected, in order to please Chris. And I still regret this.

    Is this related to your post at all? I’m not sure. 🙂 But anyway, it was on my mind. Thanks for all your Love Idol posts.

  10. “my friend Chris’s house…”