Gloomy Tunes: Rick Hall, RIP

Unless you’re the kind of person who pores over the credits on the back of albums, the name Rick Hall doesn’t mean much to you. But Hall, who died today at the age of 85, was a major force in American popular music, producing, composing, arranging, and engineering hits for artists as varied as Roy Orbison, Etta James, Clarence Carter, Arthur Alexander, The Osmonds, and many others, as well as running the FAME Studios, where he helped forge what became known as the Muscle Shoals sound, a brawny, swampy sound that mixed rock and soul, and was admired by the Beatles (who at one point were considering recording at FAME), the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd (who name-checked the Swampers, FAME’s house band, on their hit “Sweet Home Alabama”), the Allman Brothers, and many others.

We offer a short playlist that barely scratches the surface of Hall’s work—it leaves out much of the great mid-60s Atlantic soul sides recorded at FAME by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, which Hall engineered—but still gives a good idea of Hall’s breadth.


Steven Mirkin

Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art, offering him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk/new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let's Make A Deal, and Rock Star: INXS.

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