Legendary soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples turns 75 today and she is truly an inspiration. She began her career in 1950 with her father, Pops Staples, and her siblings Cleotha, Yvonne, and Pervis in the Staple Singers. Called “God’s Greatest Hitmakers,” the group was very popular with gospel audiences and became more high-profile as their songs became the soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement with “Long Walk to D.C.” and “When Will We Be Paid?” Mavis often tells first-hand stories about her father’s friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr. and choosing the right songs to precede his inspiring speeches. In 1968, The Staple Singers signed with Stax and their spiritual-based music was backed by Booker T. & the M.G.s to create many top-selling singles like “Let’s Do It Again” and ” I’ll Take You There.”
In recent years, Mavis released a series of well-received solo albums and collaborated with producers such as Ry Cooder and Jeff Tweedy. Between tours with her live band, she has found time to record with a variety of artists like John Scofield, Patty Griffin, Win Butler and her friend Bob Dylan. (He once proposed to her!) Gospel great Mahalia Jackson was a close family friend and you can hear her influence in Mavis’ music.
In April, 2003, Staples performed in Memphis at the historic Orpheum Theater for “Soul Comes Home,” a concert celebrating the grand opening of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. She shared the stage with many of her long-time Stax collaborators and the event was filmed for a DVD release.
She’s a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Rolling Stone magazine rated her one of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Now in her seventies, Mavis’ powerful voice still rings with joy and conviction every time she sings.