Thursday, August 02, 2007


Mavis Staples in the Funk Queen of the Universe

I watched Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story on PBS last night (thanks to, which included a notice of it in its weekly email alert). The movie's full of spectacular vintage footage of live performances from the years 1957 to 1975: Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes.
But the performer who sent me reeling, as always, was Mavis Staples of the Staples Singers.
Watching her is a full-body experience, as is her singing. Forget about trying to describe it -- rent the Wattstax documentary and watch. Get the CDs and listen. She's doing some wonderful recording now but 1973 - oh my. Mavis Staples is like a huge wave that takes you and you let it: there is no swoop the voice will not ride, no place it will not travel.
In an interview, she says that some were shocked when the Staples Singers began singing secular music, calling it the Devil's Music. "The Devil has no music," she says she told them. "All music is God's music." I believe.
You can read Esther Iverem's review on SeeingBlack here.

Hi Sarah--Mavis Staples is going to performing at Montgomery College in the next few weeks--did you know about that?
Hi Joanna,

I didn't know. Thanks for cluing me in. I'll check it out!

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