Stax Nostalgic

Legendary record-company founder looks back at R&B's early heyday.

Today's music bites. So says former Stax Records owner Al Bell, who'll tell you today at the Rock Hall's Black History Month lecture series why he thinks the recording business needs a massive overhaul. "Right now, the industry is taking a cookie-cutter approach. Everything sounds alike," says Bell. "I understand that it's all about mass merchandising, but that doesn't make it good."After he founded the Memphis-based Stax in 1957, Bell saw his label become a haven for racially integrated funk in a segregated society. It was home to acts whose songwriting still influences the musical landscape after 40 years, like Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave. Recently, U2's Bono applauded R&B classics like "I'll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself" for shaping his own tunes. "I think Stax had a profound impact on popular music in America and Europe," says Bell. "I watch rappers today and see how much they still sample the Stax records." His walk down memory lane starts at 7 tonight at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, 1 Key Plaza. Admission is free. Call 216-781-7625 or visit
Wed., Feb. 20, 7 p.m., 2008