Mavis Staples

Origin: Chicago, Illinois

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Genres: Gospel, R&B, Soul

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Mavis Staples is an American rhythm and blues and gospel singer, actress and civil rights activist.  She has recorded and performed with her family’s band The Staple Singers and also as a solo artist.  Staples is a Rock and Roll and Blues Hall of Fame inductee and a Lifetime Grammy recipient.

Staples’ voice has been sampled by some of the biggest selling hip-hop artists, including Ice Cube, Ludacris and others.  Staples has recorded with a wide variety of artists including her good friend Bob Dylan with whom she was nominated for a 2003 Grammy Award to The Band, Ray Charles, Prince and many others.

Staples was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1939 and began her career singing with her family group locally in churches and appearing on a weekly radio show.  The Staples scored a hit in 1956 with “Uncloudy Day.” Upon graduating from high school Mavis went on the road with her family.  Led by family patriarch Roebuck “Pop” Staples on guitar and including the voices of Mavis and her siblings.  The Staples were called “God’s Greatest Hitmakers.”

The Staples evolved from enormously popular gospel singers to become the most spectacular and influential spirituality-based group in America.  By the mid 1960’s The Staple Singers, inspired by Pops’ close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr. became the spiritual and musical voices of the civil rights movement.  They covered contemporary pop hits with positive messages, including Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” and a version of Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.”

The Staples sang “message” songs like “Long Walk to D.C.” and “When Will We Be Paid?,” bringing their moving and articulate music to a huge number of young people.  The Staple Singers hit the Top 40 eight times between 1971 and 1975, including two No.1 singles, “I’ll Take You There,” and “Let’s Do It Again.”

Mavis Staples first solo album a self-titled effort was released in 1969.  A 1984 album (also self-titled) preceded two albums under the direction or rock star Prince.  Her 1996 release, Spirituals & Gospels: A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson honored the woman who was a close family friend and a significant influence on Mavis Staples’ life.

In 2007 Staples released We’ll Never Turn Back  The Ry Cooder-produced concept album focused on gospel songs of the civil rights movement and also included two new original songs by Cooder.

In February 2016 Staples released the album Livin’ on a High Note.  The album features songs written specifically for Staples by Nick Cave, Neko Case and others.  In January 2017 Staples was featured as guest vocalist on “I Give You Power,” a single from Arcade Fire benefiting the American Civil Liberties Union.

Staples released her sixteenth album If All I Was Was Black in November of 2017.  The album was produced by Jeff Tweedy and contains all original songs co-written by Mavis and Tweedy.  The album’s release was followed by a tour with Bob Dylan.

In 2019 Mavis Staples will release her newest album We Get By produced and composed by Ben Harper.  The album’s first single is a defiant blues number “Change,” characterized by an easy swing, rockin’ rhythmic guitar, and gospel-inspired harmonies.  Upon the album’s May release Staples will celebrate her 80th birthday with a series of star-studded concerts.

Reference –

Mavis Staples’ discography

Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays Mavis Staples.  All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/

Listen to “Change” the first single off Mavis Staples’ forthcoming album.