muscle_shoals 20 feet from stardomI have been getting into music documentaries of late. I seen and reviewed Sound City and It Might Get Loud. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM and MUSCLE SHOALS are of the same vein. Documentaries that are not about one band, but about a sound or a time and place that played an iconic part in the history of popular music. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM tells the story of some of the most successful backup singers in history. These are the women who gave rock music its guts, it’s soul and it’s attitude. They are recognizable voices and without them some of Rock and R & B’s most important songs would not be the same. These women are also immensely talented. They are not just window dressing on stage to look good behind the headliner. Some could be stars themselves except for fate or breaks or the cruelty of others. Women with names like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer may be overlooked by pop culture, but their places in history are there in the grooves of your favorite LP. MUSCLE SHOALS is a town in the northwest corner of Alabama. It was an industrial or factory town. But it also was home to one of the most important recording studios ever built. Fame was started by Rick Hall in the late 1950’s. The studio is famous for creating the Muscle Shoals sound. It’s a greasy, dirty awesome sound that you can hear in the songs of Wilson Picket, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Etta James. It’s the story of a bunch of young white crackers (they’re description, not mine) who created the most awesome studio band ever to play. Wilson Pickett heard them and couldn’t believe it when he finally met them. It’s also the story of Rick Hall’s stubborn belief in himself that eventually lead three of his house band members to break off and form Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. That studio is famous for hosting the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and countless other bands that created and made Southern Rock popular. Both movies are testament to the stubbornness of an artist with a vision. Also to the unmistakable drive and talent it takes to turn that vision into something special and timeless. If you are fan of any of the music I mentioned, you need to check out both documentaries. They are both fascinating. They lure you in with the music you know and keep you with strong storytelling and revealing facts about the people who made the music. They are history lessons that are also entirely entertaining and stick with you long after the final credits disappear up the screen. — Alan Yudman



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