Legendary Producer Rick Hall Dead at 85
Producer Rick Hall, who was best known for his groundbreaking work with the Muscle Shoals sound, has died at the age of 85 after a battle with cancer. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame reports that Hall died early Tuesday morning (Jan. 2).
"Rick Hall was a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable force in the world of music. A lifetime is not enough to appreciate his work," the organization states in a post to Facebook.
Hall was the founder of the legendary FAME Recording Studios, where he helped pioneer the Muscle Shoals sound that revolutionized soul and R&B music and ended up influencing genres far outside of that scope for generations.
Hall was born in Mississippi in 1932, but was raised in Alabama by his father and grandparents after his mother left. He later began to play in a band in Alabama that featured future legendary country producer Billy Sherrill on saxophone, and scored his earliest successes as a songwriter with cuts from George Jones on "Achin', Breakin' Heart," Brenda Lee's "She'll Never Know" and Roy Orbison's recording of "Sweet and Innocent."
He went on to help establish Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, or FAME, and helped turn it into one of the most important recording centers in the U.S., working with a roster of soul artists that included Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and more. By the late '60s he had branched out into pop music, scoring hits with Paul Anka, the Osmonds, Tom Jones and others.
The late '70s and '80s found Hall shifting his focus more to country music, producing successful songs for Mac Davis, Bobbie Gentry, Jerry Reed, the Gatlin Brothers, Barbara Mandrell, Shenandoah and Ronnie Milsap. Hall remained active in music into his later years, and his life story was chronicled extensively in the 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals.
Judy Hood, who serves on the board of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and is the wife of Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section bassist David Hood, says Hall had been living in a nursing home while battling cancer recently, but had returned to his home in Muscle Shoals just before Christmas.
"It's a very, very sad day for Muscle Shoals and music in general," Hood tells the Florence Times Daily.
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