Sunday, November 17, 2013

Taking a break from the Nature's beauty series to share some joyous family time at the Hollywood Theatre, experiencing "Muscle Shoals" together!

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Back story. Born in 1947 in Jackson, Mississippi; graduated from high school in 1966; went to Mississippi State in Starkville until we needed for my parents to send my brother to school to defer the possibility of being drafted; moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1969; listened to various radio stations in Jackson and Starkville and Kansas City. Every chance I got, I went to live music at clubs and at  concerts. Dec. 31, 1972, married a music lover named LeRoy--he had more albums than I'd ever seen outside of a record store. We continued those habits, spending some of life's time and money and love on music. LeRoy died in 1983 in Houston, Texas, where we had moved. Lamont, Leland and I moved back to Jackson, Mississippi. I took my sons to as many live music performances as we could afford. We listened to the radio, watched early MTV together, and bought some music. We came to appreciate each others tastes, one of the blessings of being their mother that causes my heart to swell. To me it means their Daddy is here with us, helping us understand each other just a little bit better.

I cannot play anything. I cannot sing. I can appreciate music that grabs hold of me and won't let go. In fact, I willingly allow this to happen from the second I hear some songs, whether it is the first time or the hundredth time. Before LeRoy, who really just about wouldn't dance, ever, I used to get up on the dance floor and get down. Nowadays, I jump at the chance to do the Electric Slide, as well as bobbing my head with the best of 'em. And I fondly remember dancing with Lamont and Leland at their various high school proms. (I taught at their school.)

Now for why I'm smiling so much in all of the photos in the collage. A few months ago when I read about "Muscle Shoals" in an e-mail I received from the Portland Art Museum's NW Film Center, I knew I had to see it. No wavering in my determination--I bought a ticket to see it on Friday, October 11, at 6:45 p.m. When I walked in, I decided to sit on row seven, in the 11th seat, for luck. Did that ever turn out to be the case! Here's something I wrote about the experience afterwards--"Let me tell you, if you get the chance to see the documentary "Muscle Shoals," you should take it. I can't think of enough words to accurately convey how splendid it is. Go see and you'll find yourself feeling the same. If you don't, I'm sorta worried about you."

Several times as I sat there in the dark, among surely lots of non-Southerners who nevertheless loved the music, I wondered what they thought about the word kudzu, did they recognize it for those few seconds it was on the screen? Did they understand what those interviewed really meant when they talked about the singing river, the mud, the place of Muscle Shoals, Alabama? It didn't take much for me to become homesick for my Mississippi because those beautiful skies and landscapes and small town sights spoke deeply and quickly to my memories. Those young men, barely out of boyhood, struck me with such familiarity that I felt I knew them, yet I remained amazed at the chance of the whole thing--they are the living, breathing, talented truth of being in the right place at the right time. Let's add in having the right skills and determination and flexibility and the ability to not be racists, too, in those turbulent times in the South.

Overcome with the gut-impact of deep emotions I had not expected, somehow I swallowed the sobs I felt coming on as I sat there while folks all around me got up and left as the credits rolled. I couldn't move, not yet. I had to drink from "Muscle Shoals," the final drop of the well-realized effort on the part of all involved in its coming together. When I got to the top of the aisle, I noticed to  my right that the auditorium's control room door stood ajar. I leaned into the darkness and said with a still choked up voice, "Thank you, thank you so much for bringing that here." I heard a voice reply, "You're welcome." And I walked away, knowing immediately that I had to see it again.

This past week when I got an e-mail from the Hollywood Theatre saying that I could get free tickets to "Muscle Shoals," I immediately started clicking and typing, with a huge grin plastered all over my mug. I got the confirmation e-mail the next day, and both sons, Lamont and Leland, willingly said Yes to my invite. I knew we three had it made in the shade. That we were cooking with gas. That our ship had come in. OK, I'm going off the deep end here, but I do not care. Look at the collage above and see how I looked out front afterward, and you see the truth in those cliched phrases, plastered all over my mug! I sat there between the two of them, patting their knees every once in a while, wondering if they could believe any better than I could that these men who looked and sounded like their Papaw used to look and sound had been the creators of much of the musical soundtrack of our lives. Once we hit the sidewalk outside, I handed my iPhone to Leland so that I could have these photos to enjoy over and over.

I know this has been a lot to read. Thanks for indulging an ol' woman's family and musical whims, reflections, and joys. I know just how blessed that I am, y'all.


In a small Alabama town called Muscle Shoals—on the banks of the Tennessee River—legendary musicians including Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett gathered in the late 1960s to create music that would inspire later recordings by Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers Band, Simon and Garfunkel, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Black Keys, and many more. Tracing the storied history of this unlikely musical birthplace, Camalier’s colorful film centers on Rick Hall, the founder of FAME recording studios and creator of the Muscle Shoals Sound and its legendary house rhythm section, The Swampers. Along with rare archival clips are the memories of legend after legend—all testimony to one of America’s most creative musical melting pots. (111 mins.)

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