"Harnessing the Power of Music"
What You Need To Know:
MUSCLE SHOALS is a beautifully shot documentary. It’s about Rick Hall, the founder of Fame Studios in Alabama, which is credited with developing the Muscle Shoals sound. As a sound engineer and producer, Hall and his rhythm section, “The Swampers,” were a group of talented session musicians that created a unique sound hard to duplicate anywhere else in the world. They backed up many famous singers, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Bono, Bob Seger, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Cliff, and Alicia Keys.
MUSCLE SHOALS is an excellent documentary. It has a seamless mix of archival footage, interviews, music, and shots of the town and countryside of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Even better, it has a moral, redemptive worldview with some positive messages. For example, Rick forgives the wrongdoings done to him and takes ownership of his own shortcomings. In addition, Alicia Keys, backed by a gospel choir, sings about pressing on to the higher calling of the Lord. That said, MUSCLE SHOALS warrants caution for children due to some foul language and serious subject matter.
(B, C, L, V, N, A, D, M) Light moral worldview as Rick Hall overcomes poverty, his dysfunctional family, life tragedies, and alcoholism to produce major artists and hit records, with light Christian elements as Gospel choir sings with Alicia Keys about pressing on to the higher calling of the Lord; eight obscenities; no violence depicted, but accounts told of physical and verbal altercations with Rick and others, wife and father killed in vehicular accidents; no sexual content; upper male nudity in archival footage of men skinny-dipping; alcohol bottles in studio during recording, light drinking depicted; light smoking; and, racism, dysfunctional family issues, abandonment, and betrayal/dissolving of music partnerships, but some of this is resolved.
MUSCLE SHOALS is a wonderfully shot documentary with beautiful cinematography capturing the opening scene of a sunrise/sunset along the Tennessee River in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Some history is shared about the river given the Indian name “Nonasay,” which means, “The river sings.” Years ago, when the area was occupied by Native Americans, they realized this river as a special place of song.
Rick Hall is the founder of Fame Studios and is credited with developing the Muscle Shoals sound. As a sound engineer and producer, he and his rhythm section, “The Swampers,” were a group of talented session musicians that created a unique sound that was hard to duplicate anywhere else in the world.
In MUSCLE SHOALS, Rick Hall and a variety of musicians and vocalists attest to the many hit records produced in his studio. Rick helped a diverse spectrum of artists: those without established careers, those whose careers were dying, and those who were already established and successful. Some of the artists interviewed include Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Bono, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Seger, and Alicia Keys. Throughout MUSCLE SHOALS, American and foreign artists try to speculate where such a blend of sound and soul comes from.
Rick shares his story of being extremely poor, growing up with dirt floors in his home in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and always wanting to be somebody. He suffered a lot of rejection and tragic deaths throughout his childhood and adulthood, dealing with the death of his first wife with drinking. At some point he decides to turn his life around and goes into seclusion working on music for five years.
He began a partnership with friends that was somewhat successful, but his partners let him go from their business because they felt Rick was too driven and not fun enough. Rick persevered through the disappointment to create his own Fame Studios. Fame Studios thrived at a time of tumult in America, especially in the South, during the civil rights movement. Both black and white artists could come together and make music at Fame Studios. There were no race issues in the studio sessions, and all of the players were treated equal regardless of their color. One artist recalls that blacks still had to refer to whites as Mr. or Ms. when they were out in public, but once inside the studio everyone was on a first name basis.
Sadly, Rick lost the allegiance of The Swampers, who opened a competing studio across town. However, he still continued to make hits. He learns to forgive and reconcile as he welcomes his former rhythm players, and they reunite in the studio to play and mix recordings of Alicia Keys singing “Pressing On” by Bob Dylan.
MUSCLE SHOALS is an excellent documentary, with a seamless mix of archival footage, interviews, music, and the town and countryside of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Discretion is advised for older children because of some foul language and other mature themes. Even so, MUSCLE SHOALS has a light moral worldview as Rick develops his studio and many black artists who may not have had the privilege otherwise. There is also a light Christian worldview expressed as Rick forgives the wrongdoings done to him and also takes ownership of his own shortcomings. In addition, Alicia Keys sings backed by a Gospel choir about pressing on to the higher calling of the Lord.