Results for The Staple Singers

interviews

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.

Go to episode 593
reviews
Livin' on a High NoteLivin' On a High Note available on iTunes

Mavis Staples Livin' On a High Note

Mavis Staples had a legendary career with her family's gospel and soul band The Staple Singers, which was a major part of the protest movement of the 1960s and scored huge hits for Stax in the 1970s. Mavis reinvented herself as solo artist in 2000s, collaborating on records with Ry Cooder and Jeff Tweedy. For Livin' On a High Note, she and producer M. Ward as a producer asked a variety of contemporary songwriters to write material for her to sing, including Neko Case, Nick Cave, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. Jim loves how the best songs bring Mavis full circle by referencing on the Black Lives Matter movement. While the other songs are hit and miss, Mavis Staples is a“national treasure”and her voice is as powerful as ever. Jim is still waiting for her end career masterpiece, but this album is a definite Buy It. Greg – who literally wrote the book on Mavis Staples – points to We'll Never Turn Back as her masterpiece, but says this album is very good too. He loves what she does even with the lesser songs, like Vernon's generic love song, which she transforms into a moving address to her sister Yvonne Staples. In the middle of her 70s, Mavis Staples is doing some of the best work of her career.

JimGreg
Go to episode 536
lists

Protest Songs

August 28, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech "I Have a Dream." And when Jim and Greg look back at that era, the music stands out as much as the marches and words. During this segment they talk about the role music played in the struggle for civil rights and how gospel and folk influences found their way into the pop charts. Jim and Greg also speak with legendary disc jockey Herb Kent about working at WVON (Voice of the Negro) during this time. Here are the protest songs Jim and Greg highlight:

  1. "Driva Man" by Max Roach & Oscar Brown Jr. featuring Abbey Lincoln, 1960
  2. "How I Got Over" performed by Mahalia Jackson at the March on Washington, 1963
  3. "In the Mississippi River" by the Freedom Singers, 1965
  4. "Mississippi Goddamn" performed by Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall, 1964
  5. "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke, 1964
  6. "Keep On Pushing" by The Impressions, 1964
  7. "Freedom Highway" by The Staple Singers, 1965
  8. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" performed by Kim Weston at Wattstax, 1972
Go to episode 404

Music of the Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights Music

When you think about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, perhaps the powerful words of Martin Luther King Jr. or the horrific images of Emmett Till come to mind. But, for Jim and Greg, the music equally lingers. Songs by Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke and more captured the mood and inspired action. Here are some that continue to resonate:

  1. "Driva Man" by Max Roach & Oscar Brown Jr. featuring Abbey Lincoln, 1960
  2. "How I Got Over" performed by Mahalia Jackson at the March on Washington, 1963
  3. "In the Mississippi River" by the Freedom Singers, 1965
  4. "Mississippi Goddamn" performed by Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall, 1964
  5. "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke, 1964
  6. "Keep On Pushing" by The Impressions, 1964
  7. "Freedom Highway" by The Staple Singers, 1965
  8. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" performed by Kim Weston at Wattstax, 1972
Go to episode 534
news

Music News

The biopic film Straight Outta Compton debuted this past weekend to a monster box office earning over $56 million. The movie tells the story of the group N.W.A. and how they created the blue print for west coastand gangster rap in the '80s and early '90s. Jim recently saw the film and thought more about the biopic genre in general. He thought that this was a VH1-type film that largely glossed over many of the important truths of the band's history, including Dr. Dre's misogyny in both his lyrics and his actions. Greg agrees that the story of Dee Barnes, a female journalist covering N.W.A who was physically assaulted by Dre, was excluded from the film. Jim ultimately thinks the biopic doesn't work as journalism or biography, but instead acts as a missed opportunity to tell the whole truth of the story.

Two celebrated '70s producers passed away this week: Bob Johnston, longtime Bob Dylan producer, and Billy Sherrill, creator of the countrypolitan genre and producer of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. As an in-house producer for Columbia Records, Johnston produced some of Dylan's most notable albums, including Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline. Johnston also served as the producer for Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison, which only came about after Johnston's persistent efforts. With a similar determination, Sherrill ignited the careers of country artists like Jones and Wynette with hit songs "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "Stand By Your Man." However, Greg chooses to honor Sherrill by playing The Staple Singers' "Why Am I Treated So Bad," a track that he produced before entering the country music scene. Sherrill produced songs for early R&B artists when no other producer would, earning him tremendous respect.

Go to episode 508