In this clip from the Independent Lens documentary Muscle Shoals, producer Rick Hall and multiple musicians try to nail down exactly what the Muscle Shoals sound is, and what it is “is a coming together of styles.” From “Hillbilly background to black musicians,” they were open to any genre, with the bass and drums turned up.
Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the “Singing River,” as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. At its heart is Rick Hall, who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Hall brought black and white together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations. He is responsible for creating the “Muscle Shoals sound” and the Swampers, the house band at FAME that eventually left to start its own successful studio, Muscle Shoals Sound. In this joyful film, Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals’ magnetism and mystery, and why it remains influential today.