Rhythm and Blues and Gospel Singer, Actress, and Civil Rights Activist; Member of Family Band, The Staple Singers
Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples possesses one of the most recognizable and treasured voices in contemporary music. From her early days sharing lead vocals with her groundbreaking family group, The Staple Singers, to her powerful solo recordings, Mavis Staples is an inspirational force in modern popular culture and music. A 40-year-plus veteran of the…
Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples possesses one of the most recognizable and treasured voices in contemporary music. From her early days sharing lead vocals with her groundbreaking family group, The Staple Singers, to her powerful solo recordings, Mavis Staples is an inspirational force in modern popular culture and music.
A 40-year-plus veteran of the music scene – a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee and one of VH1’s ‘100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll’ – Staples (both with The Staple Singers and on her own) is responsible for blazing a rhythm & blues trail while never relinquishing her gospel roots. Her voice has influenced artists from Bob Dylan to Prince (who dubbed her “the epitome of soul”) and she has appeared with everyone from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Bill Cosby, Presidents Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton, to Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Santana and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and has recorded with Bob Dylan, Los Lobos, Aretha Franklin, Marty Stuart and many others.
Mavis began her career with her family group in 1950. Initially singing locally at churches and appearing on a weekly radio show, the Staples scored a hit in 1956 with “Uncloudy Day” for the VeeJay label. When Mavis graduated high school in 1957, The Staple Singers took their music on the road. Led by family patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples on guitar and including the voices of Mavis and her siblings Cleo, Yvonne, and Pervis, the Staples were called “God’s Greatest Hitmakers.”
With Mavis’s voice and Pops’s songs, singing, and guitar playing, the Staples evolved from enormously popular gospel singers (with recordings on United and Riverside as well as VeeJay) to become the most spectacular and influential spiritually-based group in America. By the mid-1960’s The Staple Singers, inspired by Pops’s close friendship with Dr. 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 Gonna Fall” and a version of Stephen Stills’s “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 group signed to Stax Records in 1968, joining their gospel harmonies and deep faith with musical accompaniment from members of Booker T. and the MGs. The Staple Singers hit the Top 40 eight times between 1971 and 1975, including two #1 singles, “I’ll Take You There” and “Let’s Do It Again,” and a #2 single “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?” Now a long ways from their early roots as a pure gospel group, The Staple Singers were bona fide pop stars.
Mavis Staples recorded her first solo album, Mavis Staples, for the famed Stax label in 1969. After another Stax release, Only For the Lonely, in 1970, she released a soundtrack album, A Piece of the Action, on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label. A 1984 album (also self-titled) preceded two albums under the direction of rock megastar Prince: 1989’s Time Waits For No One, followed by 1993’s The Voice, which People magazine named to its Top Ten Albums of 1993. Nineteen ninety-six’s Spirituals & Gospels: A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson recorded with keyboardist Lucky Peterson, is a moving song cycle honoring Jackson, a very close family friend and a huge influence on Mavis’s life.
During her career, Staples has appeared in many films and television shows, including The Last Waltz, Graffiti Bridge, Wattstax, New York Undercover, Soul Train, Soul to Soul and The Cosby Show. Her voice has been sampled by some of the biggest selling hip-hop artists, including Salt ‘N’ Pepa, Ice Cube and Ludacris. Mavis has also recorded with a wide variety of musicians, from her close friend Bob Dylan (with whom she was nominated for a 2003 Grammy Award in the “Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals” category for their duet on “Gotta Change My Way Of Thinking” from the album Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan) to The Band, Ray Charles, Nona Hendryx, George Jones, Natalie Merchant, Ann Peebles, Delbert McClinton and many others. She has provided vocals on current albums by Los Lobos and Dr. John, and she appears on recent tribute albums to Johnny Paycheck, Stephen Foster and Bob Dylan.
Mavis Staples’s new CD, Have A Little Faith (Alligator), is a stirring collection of uplifting, gospel-rooted songs deeply seated in her faith and spirituality. Produced by Jim Tullio and Staples, the album features the strongest collection of material – both originals and interpretations – Mavis has ever assembled. Have A Little Faith takes listeners deep into the heart of the singer Vibe magazine called “one of pop’s most distinctive voices.”
With Have A Little Faith, Mavis Staples is building on a family tradition of joining gospel fervor with shades of soul and R&B. Her importance in both the music world and as a driving force of social change makes her a true icon – an artist who continues to create music that will inspire a whole new generation of people to have faith in the healing and uplifting power of her remarkable gift.
Ernie was perfect for our Elders Conference at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. We will definitely be using PDA again!
LITTLE RIVER BAND OF OTTAWA INDIANS
Our speaker was great and the crowd enjoyed her! She was very engaging. Thank you again PDA for the great list of suggestions!
Everything went great! and our speaker was wonderful! Thank you so much for all your help PDA! Looking forward to the next one.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – KANSAS CITY
I hope that this message finds you well. We had a phenomenal time with Atsuko this past Thursday. We wanted to just let you know how amazing she was. All those that were in attendance thoroughly enjoyed her and had nothing but amazing things to say about her. Thank you for working with us to make sure this happened!
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
We had a fantastic day with Inge! She was very engaging with all those that attended. Her personal stories about the holocaust were very special and we were moved that she was willing to share them with everyone. Thank you again, PDA for all your hard work and dedication to make this program such a success!
SALT LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Dear PDA Group, Thank you so much for your hard work in scheduling our speaker! From the moment we reached out to you the first time, you worked with us on all details and logistics and kept us up-to-date on the progress. Thank you for all your hard work on making our event such a success! We couldn't have done it without you and your team!
Thank you again, Dr. Kimbrough, for a great presentation, our attendees are still talking about it!
Dr. Henry Lee's presentation was entertaining, insightful and wise. I, and everyone at Pfizer, especially appreciate the remarks you directed about following your passion and preparing yourself to excel. Thank you, everyone, at PDA for helping to make this happen!
The event was successful! I received many messages expressing how awesome, outstanding and inspiring Ms. Webb-Christburg's speech was."
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL BREAKFAST, BOSTON, MLK SPEAKER
Everything went well. Atsuko was very easy to work with and the students enjoyed her performance! Thank you again for your recommendation and I hope to work with you again in the future!
CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Dr. Novello left this morning after a very successful event on our campus! Thank you PDA Group for your help from the first phone to the last you were with us every step of the way.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Jordan Carlos was very very entertaining! A majority of students who answered the event survey indicated they really enjoyed Jordan and definitely will bring him back!
WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
On behalf of myself and my organization Entertainment Unlimited the Campus Programming Board of Ferris State University, we thank you PDA and Dan for a successful event!! Dan was magnificent! Students really enjoyed the presentation. I know I did. Can't wait to bring in more programs with PDA Group.
FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY
It was a great pleasure to work with PDA Group! The communication was always prompt, friendly and helpful. We loved the speakers and events we booked through Mr. Peter Walker (PDA Group).
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Thank you, Peter, for all your help, you'll be happy to know that the event went incredibly well! Aneesa Ferreira was by far one of the best speakers we've ever had!
A Conversation With Mavis Staples
Mavis Staples in Conversation with Elizabeth Alexander
1 HOUR OR LESS