Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples

As a member of her family group The Staple Singers and as a solo artist, Mavis Staples has used her huge voice to power the Civil Rights Movement and inspire generations. The gospel and soul legend joins Jim and Greg for an intimate discussion of her life and career.

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Mavis Staples

It's not often we get to share a room with a genuine national treasure. Jim and Greg were honored to speak with gospel and soul legend and Civil Rights icon Mavis Staples. (Greg is also the author of Mavis's 2014 biography I'll Take You There). Beginning her career at age eleven as the lead singer of her family band The Staple Singers, Mavis has inspired countless artists over the past half century.

Her father Pops Staples learned guitar at the feet of Charley Patton in Dockery Farms, Mississippi before moving to Chicago. There, he formed The Staple Singers, a gospel vocal group featuring his children – Pervis, Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis taking the lead. The combination of Pops's blues guitar, Cleotha's counterpoint, and Mavis's precociously powerful voice launched them into national attention with their 1956 hit "Uncloudy Day." Soon, the Staple Singers were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, often serving as the opening act to Martin Luther King, Jr. (We'll cover that period in more detail in a second episode with Mavis).

The group had its greatest success once it signed to Stax Records and began recording with the famed session musicians in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on hits like "I'll Take You There." That's also when Mavis began her solo career – reluctantly at first, but still going as strong as ever today. Her latest album Livin' on a High Note found her working with songwriters like Nick Cave, tUnE-yArDs, and Neko Case. Mavis offers Jim and Greg an intimate look at growing up on Chicago's South Side, forming the Staple Singers' signature sound, meeting Mahalia Jackson, and collaborating with Curtis Mayfield and Prince.

Featured Songs

  1. The Staple Singers, Pop's Instrumental, Soul Folk in Action, Stax, 1968
  2. The Staple Singers, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, Vee Jay, 1960
  3. Charley Patton, It Won't Be Long Now, Down the Dirt Road Blues (single), Paramount, 1929
  4. The Staple Singers, Swing Low, Swing Low, Vee Jay, 1961
  5. The Staple Singers, I'm Coming Home, Let Me Ride (single), Vee Jay, 1957
  6. Mahalia Jackson, Move On Up a Little Higher, Move On Up a Little Higher (single), Apollo, 1947
  7. The Staple Singers, God's Wonderful Love, If I Could Hear My Mother (single), Vee Jay, 1956
  8. The Staple Singers, Uncloudy Day, Uncloudy Day (single), Vee Jay, 1956
  9. The Staple Singers, Gloryland, Hammer and Nails, Riverside, 1962
  10. The Staple Singers, Got to Be Some Changes Made, Soul Folk in Action, Stax, 1968
  11. The Staple Singers, Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom), The Staple Swingers, Stax, 1971
  12. The Staple Singers, I'll Take You There, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, Stax, 1971
  13. The Staple Singers, Oh La De Da, Wattstax: The Living Word, Stax, 1972
  14. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Born on the Bayou, Bayou Country, Fantasy, 1969
  15. The Staple Singers, Sit Down Servant, Swing Low, Vee Jay, 1961
  16. The Staple Singers, Everyday People, We'll Get Over, Stax, 1969
  17. The Staple Singers, Let's Do It Again, Let's Do It Again, Curtom, 1975
  18. Curtis Mayfield, Move On Up, Curtis, Curtom, 1970
  19. The Spaniels, Baby It's You, Baby It's You, Chance, 1953
  20. The Highway QC's, Somewhere to Lay My Head, Somewhere to Lay My Head (single), Vee Jay, 1955
  21. The Staple Singers, Back Road into Town, City in the Sky, Stax, 1974
  22. Mavis Staples, A House Is Not a Home, Mavis Staples, Volt, 1969
  23. Mavis Staples, This Little Light, Live: Hope At The Hideout, Anti-, 2008
  24. The Staple Singers, Crying in the Chapel, What The World Needs Now Is Love, Epic, 1968
  25. Mavis Staples, Tomorrow, Livin' on a High Note, Anti-, 2016
  26. Mavis Staples, Action, Livin' on a High Note, Anti-, 2016
  27. Mavis Staples, Losing You, You Are Not Alone, Anti-, 2010
  28. Mavis Staples, I Have Learned to Do Without You, Only for the Lonely, Volt, 1970
  29. Prince, Graffiti Bridge, Graffiti Bridge, Paisley Park, 1990
  30. Mavis Staples, Blood is Thicker Than Time, The Voice, Paisley Park, 1993
  31. The Staple Singers, This World, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, Stax, 1971
  32. The Kinks, Party Line, Face to Face, Pye, 1966
  33. Chuck Berry, Back in the USA, Back in the USA (single), Chess, 1959
  34. Chuck Berry, Reelin‘ and Rockin’ (Live), The London Chuck Berry Sessions, Chess, 1972
  35. Chuck Berry, It Wasn't Me, It Wasn't Me (single), Chess, 1965