Hi. Nice to have you with us again on As It Is.
Later on our show we will be listening to some of the biggest hit songs from America in the 1960s and 1970s. You may be surprised that many of these songs came from the same place.
And speaking of places, here is Grand Central Station in New York City. It is one of the biggest—and busiest—train stations in the country.
Recently, a special dance performance brought even more excitement than usual to Grand Central Station. The performance honored the station’s one hundred year anniversary.
For several hours every day, a group of dancers made to look like horses passed through the famous train station. Each horse was operated by two dancers from the Ailey School. All together, the thirty horses danced, walked, and pretended to eat in the train station.
Nick Cave created the show. He is an artist and a dancer. He saw Grand Central Terminal as a crossroads, and he imagined human travelers as horses moving across some other world. He says he felt a civic duty to capture people’s imaginations.
“We tend to be so consumed by the state of affairs today, and holding onto our jobs that we don’t tend to dream anymore.”
Many people who saw the show agreed with him.
“Whenever they transformed into the horses and they were moving, it was literally like a dream. I felt like I was in a different world.”
“I thought it would be cool to be one of them. I sort of wished I was one of them. I sort of imagined in my head what it was like to be one.”
Nick Cave’s horse-like creations, called Soundsuits, come alive when invited by a drum.
“I’m from Nigeria, and the talking drum is native to the culture in Nigeria. They use it in churches, in different events. So when I heard it, it immediately brought me back to home.”
A not-for-profit group called Creative Time presented the show. The group’s director, Anne Pasternak, says Nick Cave’s work makes art available in a public place at no cost. And, she says the horses have ties to Grand Central’s roots. After all, the first trains that came in and out of Grand Central Station were pulled by horses.
Some of the biggest hit records over the past 50 years have come from a recording studio in a small town in the American state of Alabama called Muscle Shoals. Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and many others recorded there and still do. A new documentary tells the story of Muscle Shoals. Jim Tedder has our report.
Muscle Shoals sits on the Tennessee River and has a population of only 13,000. Some of the world’s top musicians have made records in this town. “This is a rural spot in rural America, whereas when you think of other music meccas in America, they are more urban-based.”
Filmmaker Greg Camalier set out to learn why. He says it all began with Rick Hall. Rick Hall started FAME studios in Muscle Shoals in the late 1950s.
“I wanted to be special. I wanted to be somebody.”
Using old films and pictures, the documentary shows how Rick Hall developed an unusual sound. It combined skilled studio engineering and the support of local artists, black and white.
At the time, Alabama Governor George Wallace was fighting efforts to end racial separation. But black and white musicians in Muscle Shoals were already working together, producing huge hits. This song made local artist Percy Sledge a star.
“As their songs became cutting-edge songs down there, people were hearing them around the world, and were like ‘I want that sound.’”
The British rock group The Rolling Stones also came to the Alabama town.
Greg Camalier spoke with both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards for the film.
“It was pretty funky, that was the whole idea of it.”
“You are in rock and roll heaven, man.”
By the time the Rolling Stones arrived, the musicians working for Rick Hall had started their own production studio in Muscle Shoals. Today there are several studios in the town.
Greg Camalier’s film tells the story of the studios. People living in the town have been excited to learn about their history.
“They had a screening of the film down there, and now people are embracing their past.”
The film “Muscle Shoals” is now showing in movie theaters across the United States. I’m Jim Tedder.