With her thick, throaty vocals, gospel queen Mavis Staples has been a staple of soul music for more than six decades. As the charismatic frontwoman of her family's band, The Staple Singers, her songs served as a rallying cry for the African-American Civil Rights Movement. As a solo artist, she has become a national institution. Now, music fans can create new memories on the Mavis Staples tour.
Mavis Staples' background
Born and raised in Chicago, Staples was destined to become a performer. She joined The Staple Singers in 1950 and wowed local church congregations with her titanium voice, which fluctuates from baritone to soprano. The Staple Singers got their big break when the track "Uncloudy Day" became a hit in 1956, not long after Staples graduated from high school.
The Staple Singers continued to record music in the 1960s and soon crossed over to mainstream pop culture. Blending soul with R&B, the group empowered a generation. Commercial success happened when covers of Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth" and Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" generated radio buzz. In 1972, "I'll Take You There" - written by Memphis hitmaker Al Bell - spent 15 weeks on the American charts and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Staple Singers continued their winning streak through the mid-'70s. In 1973, "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)" peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, while two years later "Let's Do It Again" became the group's second number one on the chart.
Mavis Staples' history
Staples released her first solo album way back in 1969, at the height of her family band's fame. Her eponymous debut features the songs "You're Driving Me (To the Arms of a Stranger)," "Song of a Preacher Man" and "Pick Up the Pieces." Staples' third studio effort, A Piece of the Action, served as the official soundtrack to the 1977 movie of the same name. The eight-song set includes "Til Blossoms Bloom," "Of Whom Shall I Be Afraid" and "Getting Deeper."
Staples continued to record new music in the 1980s and 1990s. Then, in 2007, a few years short of her 70th birthday, she released We'll Never Turn Back - a huge critical smash. The concept album, which retells the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, featured on several end-of-year best-of lists. We'll Never Turn Back includes the tracks "Eyes on the Prize," "Turn Me Around" and "My Own Eyes."
Staples is also renowned as a compelling live entertainer, with thousands of performances under her belt. In recent years, she's appeared at the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and entertained a more raucous crowd at the Glastonbury Festival.