Hot Docs 2013: Muscle Shoals (2013)

Posted by Brandy Dean April 15, 2013 2 Comments 9051 views

Have you ever heard of Muscle Shoals, Alabama? Let me rephrase the question – have you heard an Aretha Franklin song? Have you ever grooved to Wicked Wilson Pickett’s Land of 1000 Dances? Have you ever thought “Yes Percy Sledge, that is EXACTLY what happens when a man loves a woman!” Have you ever driven way to fast while the Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar blasted through your speakers? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you have heard of Muscle Shoals, Alabama or at least you’re heard the Muscle Shoals sound, the subject of the documentary Muscle Shoals from director Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier.

In the interest of full disclosure, these are my people ya’ll! I grew up just east of Muscle Shoals, also on the banks of the Tennessee River – “The Singing River” to the Native Americans who made their home there for millenia before Rick Hall founded FAME studios. Driven by a need to escape the crushing poverty and overwhelming tragedy that befalls him, Hall is the central figure in the story of the famed “Muscle Shoals sound” – well him and a group of homegrown, white as cotton studio musicians known as the “Swampers”. These men shaped what ultimately proved to be some of the finest rock, soul, and R&B America would ever produce.

Music docs can really go either way, depending on such bureaucratic mundanities as rights and clearances. Muscle Shoals is a triumph, though. All personal bias aside, present day interviews with music luminaries, expertly deployed found footage and stills, and the greatest soundtrack a movie could hope for, all make Muscle Shoals one of the finest music documentaries you’ll ever see. Let the participation of such bright lights as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bono, Jerry Wexler, Percy Sledge, Alicia Keys, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, and Etta James serve as a testament to the enduring magic that is Muscle Shoals, FAME studios, and that greasy, soulful sound. The only puzzling thing about Muscle Shoals is how this story went so long without being told.

Screening Times for Muscle Shoals

Tue, Apr 30 9:15 PM
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Fri, May 3 6:15 PM
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Sat, May 4 9:00 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre

Gallery of Images from Muscle Shoals

Watch the Muscle Shoals Trailer


For more information about Hot Docs 2013 and to purchase tickets, visit

About Brandy Dean

Social media consultant, blogger for hire, and lover of classic movies and silent films.

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There are 2 Comments

  1. Pingback Hot Docs 2013: Dayani Cristal and Muscle Shoals | MOVIE JUNKIE TO'S Entertainment Fix

  2. - July 19, 2014
      -   Reply

    I was lucky enough to catch it when it aired on PBS a few months ago. I’ve seen a lot music docs and this one ranks right at the top. The incredibly rich history & legacy is told with such care. How they overcame personal dramas & economic hardship to become one of leading recording studios (ever) is compelling. No less important then Abbey Road, Sun Records, Electric Lady & Motown.

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