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INDEPENDENT LENS: Muscle Shoals

Airs Monday, September 1, 2014 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Rick Hall and Clarence Carter in Muscle Shoals.

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, Muscle Shoals is the birthplace of some of the most important and influential songs of all time, by artists ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones to Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys to The Civil Wars.

The Muscle Shoals Sound

Groove to this playlist we created on Spotify with some of the hit songs produced in Muscle Shoals over the years. Many of these tunes, dating back to the 1960s and thereafter, are featured in the documentary and will reach into your soul.

Connect

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. "Muscle Shoals" is on Facebook, and you can follow @MuscleShoalsMov on Twitter.

At the heart of the Muscle Shoals phenomenon is visionary producer 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 make music for the generations. He is responsible for the indelible “Muscle Shoals sound” and The Swampers, the house band at FAME that eventually left to start their own successful studio, known as Muscle Shoals Sound.

The story of the small town with the big sound, Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier’s "Muscle Shoals" premiered on INDEPENDENT LENS, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, April 21, 2014 on PBS.

Featuring interviews with dozens of singers and musicians who bear witness to the magic of Muscle Shoals — including Gregg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, and Percy Sledge"Muscle Shoals" pays joyful tribute to the birthplace of such iconic hits as “I’ll Take You There,” “Brown Sugar,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” “Tell Mama,” “Kodachrome,” “Freebird,” and "Mainstreet.” Muscle Shoals is the place where, even before the Civil Rights Movement, the color of your skin didn’t matter once the music started. Or, as Keith Richards says, “it’s rock and roll heaven, man.”

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INDEPENDENT LENS: Muscle Shoals Preview

Above: Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and defiant music, and at its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and tragedy, Hall brought black and white together in a cauldron of racial hostility to create music for generations.

Video

What Is the “Muscle Shoals Sound”?

Above: 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.

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When Percy Sledge Made it Big

Above: In this clip from the INDEPENDENT LENS documentary "Muscle Shoals," soul singer Percy Sledge recounts how he went from working (and singing) on a cotton field and in a hospital to singing in an Elks Club to being discovered by a DJ and finally making it big, starting with recordings made at FAME Studios.