Lisa Fischer Steps into the Spotlight

The legendary singer has supported the world’s biggest stars. Now she brings her creativity and powerful voice to the rich colors and textures of the orchestra.

By Andrew Stiefel

If you’ve attended a Rolling Stones show anytime in the last two decades, you’re likely familiar with the one song that upstages even the swaggering Mick Jagger. As the opening chords to “Gimme Shelter” fill the stadium, Lisa Fisher’s voice emerges from the backing vocals, doing the impossible: her big, spine-tingling voice briefly steals the show from the Rolling Stones, singing some of the most unlikely lyrics in the industry: “rape, murder — it’s just a shot away.” As Jagger himself says, the duet is “the high point of the show for me.”

Even if her name is unfamiliar, Fischer’s voice is everywhere. If you listen closely, you can hear her voice in music by Sting, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and even in tracks for classical music stars like Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang. Fischer has provided vocal harmonies to some of the best-known albums from the past four decades. Despite her success, however, Fischer remained relatively unknown outside the music industry.

All that changed when filmmaker Morgan Neville released his Oscar-winning documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom, in 2013. Fischer emerged as an unexpected star of the show, and, at age 57, embarked on her first solo world tour. Today Fischer travels with her own band, Grand Baton, and is launching a new symphonic project with the Seattle Symphony, February 16–18. Entitled “Just A Kiss Away,” the program juxtaposes classic rock, opera arias and the blues, all presented through the Fischer’s mesmerizing voice.

Even as she has stepped into the spotlight, Fischer still thinks of herself as a backup singer. “I’m a background singer in my head,” she explains. “It’s one thing to be part of someone else’s entourage and everything is already done. You just come in and sing and it’s all good. It’s a whole other thing when you have to make your own decisions about what you want to do, what do you feel inspired to do.”

In many ways, Fischer comes across less as the rock star and more like a meditation instructor. When she talks about music, she invariably refers to vibrations and the combining of palates, or even universes, of sound.

“I’m really excited about ‘Just a Kiss Away’ because we get to blend rock and roll and some classical surprises and weave it all together,” says Fischer. “I got a really beautiful foundation and love of classical music as a teenager, so I’m looking forward to combining these worlds.”

Today, stardom is at her feet. “At this age and stage of my life, it’s a gift. It really is a gift and a blessing,” says Fischer. “I’m excited to take this journey and see what happens.”

Lisa Fischer steps into the spotlight with the Seattle Symphony, February 16–18.


Posted on December 4, 2017