Americans Who Got It Right

‘Muscle Shoals’ Looks At Man Behind Musical Sound, Hits


Documentary Muscle Shoals is an enjoyable walk down memory lane — showcasing some of the greatest music ever produced in the United States.

But, it is also a story of survival — of persevering through a life of setbacks and emotional pain.

The movie details the life of Rick Hall, founder of the Fame music studio located in Muscle Shoals, an Alabama town (population 13,600) near the Tennessee River. Although, the studio is far removed from the typical hustle and bustle of the large city studios in New York City and Los Angeles, it still produced hit after hit beginning in the 1960s.

Despite its ‘off the beaten path’ location, in time big-name bands and artists flocked in to record their music.

Rolling Stones & Company

Footage of the Stones’ recording sessions, including the production of hits like Wild Horses, is more than nostalgic meandering, it moves the story forward. But the movie is not just old clips, current interviews with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards offer reflection as they, and other artists, try to explain the appeal and magic of the region.

But, while these interviews and clips round out the story, make no mistake, Hall is the star of the film.

Hall’s story is a tale of triumph and loss. I won’t retell his story here because it would ruin an initial viewing of the film, but his life is proof that hard times make some people stronger — and, for people like Hall, something good can be created out of the aftermath of hard times.

Down A Long Hard Road

Hall, and the studio musicians featured in the film were, in many ways, just ‘good ole boys’ from down the road. However, that certainly did not equate to untalented. They were all extremely skilled. The studio musicians, The Swampers, even toured with The Who before returning to their Alabama roots, where they eventually split from Hall opening their own music studio. This only seemed to up the magic as the hits kept coming — ranging from Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll to Percy Faith’s When a Man Loves a Woman.

Missed Opportunities

Two musical incidents I found interesting, though, demonstrate the hit, miss and competitive nature of the business. Duane Allman — who would eventually helped form the Allman Brothers Band — camped out near Hall’s Fame studio trying to land a job as a session musician. In time, Hall hires him. Allman, being the creative guitarist he was, attempts to convince Hall to record, what is now known as southern rock. Hall, not interested in that style of music, nonchalantly admits on screen, ‘yeah I missed the boat on that one.’

The other story involves the best rock song ever recorded — Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd (I know some will argue that distinction goes to Welcome to The Jungle by Guns N Roses, but they’re wrong). When the studio version of Free Bird was recorded in Muscle Shoals, it was over nine minutes long (the live version is about 15 minutes — as it should be). The record company wanted the studio version shortened to less than four minutes. The recording studio refused saying it would destroy the integrity of the song.

The decision eventually cost them the contract.

Rated 5 out of 5

If you enjoy music, and the stories behind some of the biggest names in music, the documentary is a perfect blend of music, interviews and story. Be forewarned though, it may inspire you to dust off some old albums or to download some classic songs from iTunes.

My Interest In The Movie

Bob_Dylan_-_Slow_Train_ComingBefore watching the film, I knew nothing about Rick Hall, but I did know that Bob Dylan recorded Slow Train Coming in Muscle Shoals — his best work in my opinion. The 1979 Christian Rock album features bluesy cuts like Gotta Serve Somebody and Precious Angel as well as a somewhat humorous take on the Garden of Eden — Man Gave Names To All the Animals. Dylan also recorded the follow-up album Saved in Muscle Shoals.



Categories: American History, Americans Who Got It Right, movies | Tags: , , , , , ,

Former Students Carry On Legacy Of Teacher Who Died In Space Shuttle Explosion

ChristaMcAuliffeAs hard as it is for me to believe, today marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Christa McAuliffe — the teacher selected to be the first civilian in space — who tragically died along with six others in the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Several stories are running today remembering the event.

  1. 30 years ago, Christa McAuliffe’s dream became the country’s nightmare: This short article includes images of McAuliffe with her two children. The kids, Scott and Caroline (8 and 5 years old when the explosion occurred) were onsite that day. In fact, Scoot’s entire third grade class were on hand. The report also includes quotes from a close friend.
  2. Christa McAuliffe, first teacher in space, continues to inspire: This story is told from a very unique perspective. It tells the story of a few of McAuliffe’s social study students who are teachers today. One of those previous students, Tammy Hickey said,

“As a teacher now, I know that I want to show respect and show my students that I care. I can say to emulate how she was, would be a service to these kids for sure.”

A Major Malfulnction

One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was about the disaster. An excellent book, written about the accident, Challenger : A Major Malfunction : A True Story of Politics, Greed, and the Wrong Stuff, includes the story of the relatively unknown Roger Boisjoly. Boisjoly predicted the explosion — and as an O-Ring expert his opinion should have mattered.

But, unfortunately it was a case of upper management:

  • Asking the wrong question
  • Wanting to please a customer (NASA)
  • Requiring hard data — instead of an expert opinion — from Boisjoly.

The data didn’t exist, Boisjoly’s concerns were overridden and — just as he predicted the night before the launch — the event was catastrophic.

Did NASA Learn Anything?

Of course, when another space shuttle disaster occurred in 2003, it caused many at the time, and since, to question what was really learned in the Challenger disaster. One article posted today takes a look at that question.

Categories: American History, Americans Who Got It Right, Current Events | Tags: ,

Ohio Judge’s Unusual Tactics Reduce Repeat Offender Rate

cicconetti-honorable-michael-aIn the United States, two lines of reasoning for dealing with criminal behavior has existed since the country was created. On one side are those that believe in the Old Testament edict of an ‘eye for an eye’ and on the other side, the idea that behavior can be modified (which some call liberal, others call Christ-like).

But an Ohio judge gives individuals in his court the option to choose between the two approaches. The deal: jail time or a punishment, the judge feels, is more in line with the crime. His tactics, although unusual, have worked since the percentage of repeat offenders in his court is 10 percent compared to a national average that is as high as 75 percent.

Walk or Jail Time?

For one teen woman, it meant choosing between 30 days in jail for stiffing a cab driver or walking 30 miles (she chose to walk). And for a woman who left her dog alone for a week inside a home overfilled with junk, the choice was 90 days in jail or 8 hours at the county dump picking up trash (she took the latter).

In an era where it is simpler to ‘follow the law,’ and hand down the acceptable sentence, the tactics of Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael Cicconetti are definitely unusual. But, in an interview with ABC, Cicconetti explains why he takes such an unorthodox approach to sentencing,

When you talk about state prisons and federal prisons, their problem started way back here with my court, with municipal courts, with the minor offenses. Most people don’t start out with a felony case. It starts small, and it gets bigger, so my whole train of thought here is that we have to stop them or prevent them — that conduct — from going further at the beginning stages. They get in jail. They get smarter criminally, and as they get smarter criminally, the offenses become greater.

Painesville is a city of about 20,000 located northeast of Cleveland. You can view the ABC interview below:

Categories: Americans Who Got It Right, Funny Stories, Good News, Ohio | Tags: , , , ,