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Roger Hawkins (1945–2021), Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section drummer for Aretha Franklin

by Linnea Crowther

Roger Hawkins was a drummer with the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who played on hits including Aretha Franklin’s (1942–2018) “Respect.”

Top 40 hits

Hawkins began playing with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section – also known as the Swampers – in the 1960s. As session musicians, their names weren’t well known, and they often weren’t even credited on the records they played for, but their sound became influential and was heard on many Top 40 hits. Playing as the house band for FAME Studios, they created the Muscle Shoals Sound and attracted top recording artists. In the group’s early days, they played on hits including Percy Sledge’s (1940–2015) “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Wilson Pickett’s (1941–2006) “Land of 1000 Dances,” and Franklin’s “Think” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” In 1969, Hawkins and the Swampers founded their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound, where they had hits including Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” and Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll.”

Notable quote

“[W]e loved what we were doing. And when we were in that studio nothing else mattered. We had such a good time making things sound like what we wanted them to sound like, hoping people would like what we’re doing.” —from a 2019 interview for AL.com


Tributes to Roger Hawkins

Full obituary: AL.com

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