Sad news to report, that Rick Hall, the star of the Independent Lens film Muscle Shoals, has died at the age of 85 after a long illness.

The Fame Studios founder, who is credited with launching the career of such music icons as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and others, published and recorded numerous R&B, pop and country songs over the years. In 2014, he received a Grammy Trustees Award for his “significant contribution to the field of recording” and recently had published a memoir, The Man from Muscle Shoals: My Journey from Shame to Fame. From the Rolling Stone obituary:

To date, the studio and its publishing company have been responsible for an estimated 350 million record sales, with songs by everyone from the Beatles to George Strait.

Raised by his father after his mother abandoned Hall and his younger sister, Hall played several instruments including guitar, fiddle and mandolin, and performed in a number of musical groups. After helping to license the Percy Sledge tune “When a Man Loves a Woman” in 1966, Hall co-founded Fame Publishing in 1959 with Tom Stafford and future Tammy Wynette and George Jones producer-songwriter Billy Sherrill. The company scored early cuts with tunes by Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison and pop star Tommy Roe, and Hall soon took sole ownership of Fame, which was an acronym for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises. In 1961, he produced the first gold record in Muscle Shoals history with Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On,” later cut by the Rolling Stones and an influence on the early work of the Beatles.

We reached out to the director of Muscle Shoals, Greg “Freddy” Camalier, who wrote back:

“Rick Hall had an incredible life force pulsing through his veins, you could feel it in his presence immediately. It’s hard to believe he isn’t here anymore. I loved the man. My thoughts and prayers are with the Hall family.”