I’m tired and I’m feeble,” declares Mavis Staples, with a high-beam smile that says exactly the opposite.
Mavis pretends to shuffle into the room as though a step away from collapse while paraphrasing Thomas Dorsey’s “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” a song that has been with her since she started to stir church congregations as an eight-year-old vocalist. Her sister Yvonne rolls her eyes in mock exasperation. A small flock of onlookers starts to laugh, breaks away from their backstage hospitality beers, and surges toward the sisters to clasp hands and offer hugs in a kind of group anointing.
Mavis and Yvonne—cofounders of the Staple Singers with their father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, and siblings Pervis and Cleotha—have arrived at the Hideout, an unassuming Chicago bar tucked amid West Side warehouses. In a few minutes they will be on a big stage outdoors in front of a hometown festival crowd of eight thousand just as the sun is disappearing on a mid-September day in 2011. Mavis and Yvonne, both in their seventies, have been up since 5 a.m. after playing a show the night before in Michigan. Mavis has been pumping vitamin C to fight off a cold and a scratchy voice. “This is loosening me up, though,” she says as laughter and conversation fill the Hideout’s back room.
Donny Gerrard, one of her backing vocalists, does not by any stretch consider himself a gospel singer, or even a believer. But Mavis has a way of pulling even skeptics along in her wake. She is an artist who grew up in church and on the civil rights battlefront, but she doesn’t finger-point, preach, or prod. She leads with her enthusiasm for the day ahead.
“When I was asked to join her group, I was worried about the God stuff, frankly,” says Gerrard, adjusting his tortoiseshell glasses as he watches Mavis banter with her well-wishers. “Don’t believe in it, myself. But damn, if she doesn’t make you feel something else is at work when she’s around.”
The tall, curly-haired singer takes off the glasses, and his eyes gleam. He’s ridden the music industry roller coaster in a career that has had failures, hits (he sang Skylark’s huge ’70s single “Wildflower”), and a few health problems.
“It doesn’t matter how low you feel,” he says. “Sometimes I carry it on the stage with me, and then I see Mavis and it’s like you can’t feel down anymore. She’s always up no matter what happened that day.”
Mavis looks into her carrying bag and with the drama of a magician makes an announcement: “I know what the stage needs!” She digs out the prize. “It needs glitter! Every singer needs her stage flats, sequined flats!”
A dozen onlookers scramble for their cell phones to take photos of the diva wear. “Y’all are some slow paparazzis.” Mavis laughs as the amateur photographers click away and begin texting, tweeting, and Instagramming their friends.
Mavis, her glitter flats and matching sequined black scarf ascend the five steps onto the stage to cheers that stretch across a vast lot. Fans perched in windows and on rooftops of the buildings beyond wave their greetings. Yvonne, just off her sister’s right shoulder, is clapping just as boisterously. Nonbeliever Gerrard joins Mavis, Yvonne, and their band in an a cappella version of “Wonderful Savior”: “I am His, and He is mine.” Within seconds, the audience turns into Mavis’s moonlight choir with their rhythmic clapping.
Violin-playing indie-rocker Andrew Bird joins for The Band’s “The Weight,” which the Staple Singers had performed as part of The Last Waltz concert in 1976. Bird and Gerrard each take a verse, and then Mavis “takes it to church,” as her old friend Levon Helm used to say, a tambourine accenting every beat. Mavis twirls her hands above her head, and Yvonne is loving it, applauding her sister’s feistiness. Bring it on, Mavis roars, as she slaps her chest. “Put the load, put the load, put the load right on me.”
When the Staple Singers’ civil rights anthem “Freedom Highway” arrives, the band rolls into a marching beat and the call-and-response vocals between Mavis and her backing singers pick up the pace, more urgent with each turn. “March!” “Up freedom’s highway!” It is an echo of ’60s freedom marches, the sound of citizen soldiers girding for a beatdown, in the name of a cause that they believe is worth their blood and tears, and quite possibly their lives.
“My father, Pop Staples, wrote that song in 1965,” Mavis says as the anthem winds down. “Yes, he did, he wrote it for the big march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. We marched, we marched, and we marched, and it ain’t over yet!”
The band rumbles, voices from the audience shout encouragement. Most of the fans weren’t even born when activists, ministers, and everyday citizens locked arms and marched into a gauntlet of police clubs, snarling dogs, and water cannons in the name of racial equality.
“I’m still on that highway,” Mavis says. “And I will be there until Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream has been realized.”
At the side of the stage, the teenage Chicago musician Liam Cunningham is watching with a few members of his band, Kids These Days, who had played earlier in the day. They’ve read about the freedom marches in school, seen the news footage of the shaking fists and swinging police batons. Now they’re standing a few feet from one of the leading messengers of that era. Cunningham is mesmerized. “Her existence brings tears to my eyes,” he says softly.
The show doesn’t so much conclude as get passed on, one voice to the next. Mavis hands the closing duties to the audience, which embraces a twelve-minute version of the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” and sings it back to her. Mavis waves and exits alongside Yvonne, then hugs her brother, Pervis, who is standing in the wings applauding. She and her sister slide into a waiting black limousine behind the stage, roll down a tinted window, and wave to a small group of fans.
“Time to remove the sequined flats,” Mavis says with a laugh. “They got more work to do.”
Revue de presse
“[I’ll Take You There] takes us deep into the golden age of Mavis and her marvelously talented group.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A biography that will send readers back to the music of Mavis and the Staple Singers with deepened appreciation and a renewed spirit of discovery…. Through it all, the ebullience of Mavis Staples and her music shine through.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Kot chronicles the amazing story of a family that went from a hardscrabble life in Mississippi to Chicago’s church circuit to worldwide fame, merging the genres of roots, gospel, and soul…. This is a moving tribute to a very talented family and one gracious woman, in particular.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers are a mighty river running through more than a half-century of song, connecting Sam Cooke to Prince and Bob Dylan to Wilco. Thoroughly researched and elegantly told, I’ll Take You There offers powerful and inspiring insight into not only American music, but American history.” (Alan Light, author of The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”)
“A lively, engaging family biography, written with the Stapleses' cooperation and filled with vivid portraits, celebrity cameos and descriptions of music so evocative I kept wishing the book had come with a set of CDs.” (Tampa Bay Times)
“Emotional honesty resonates throughout I'll Take You There. Kot provides an unflinching look into the Stapleses' struggles to maintain their spiritual and artistic integrity… I'll Take You There is a biography that's well worth the heavenly journey.” (NPR)
"[A] fascinating testimony. . . . Kot’s portrayal of Mavis is deft and balanced, worthy of a performance that, no matter howoften you play it, never fails to live up to the promise of its title." (Chicago Tribune)
"Kot depicts the endurance of Mavis Staples and her family’s music as an inspiration, a saga that takes us, like the song that inspired this book’s name, to a place where ain’t nobody crying." (Washington Post)
“Kot’s take on the singer’s immense discography is invaluable, and Staples’ indomitable spirit shines through." (The A.V. Club)
“A thorough and illuminating biography that offers plenty of revealing details about a group the Band’s Robbie Robertson once likened to ‘a lonely train in the distance.’” (Paste)
“Involving from beginning to end. . . . [Kot] charts the [Staples] family’s origins in gospel music; their gradual drift into folk, soul and pop; the reverberations of their increasingly political songs during the civil rights era. . . 'I'll Take You There'...is rich musical history." (New York Times)
"Remarkable. . . . With Mavis opening up the Staples archives and providing access to family and friends, Kot...[shapes] a story bigger than just that of a singing group. " (The Commercial Appeal)
"A darn good story. . . . Whisking readers over a span of nearly 100 years, author Kot presents aroller-coaster ride of the highs and lows of one of gospel and soul’s mosticonic families. . . . a great look at history, both musically and culturally. . . . If you’re a fan of soul, R&B or gospel, “I’ll Take You There” is a bookyou’ll want to corner." (The Topeka Capital Journal)
"That Staples' life story is deeply intertwined with the Rev. Martin Luther KingJr., Sam Cooke, the Band, Bob Dylan, Lou Rawls, Jeff Tweedy, Prince, ArethaFranklin, Mahalia Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, Stax Records andJerry Butler is no mean feat. . .The gems are here in all their richness." (Windy City Times)
"Fascinating... Musical analysis doesn't get much better." (DownBeat)
"Kot has a knack for distilling the stuff of interviews and research into pithy descriptions of the Staple Singers’ lean years." (The Nation)
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
really good book28 janvier 2014
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Mavis Staples is a strong voice and this book is a strong read and it takes you through different paths and times this book talks about family time, talks about the industry and the various stages and aspects. very good book and alot of information. this is a good read and a artist who hasn't gotten her due and her family for that matter. the Staple Singers were always the truth musically.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
An American Treasure5 février 2014
- Publié sur Amazon.com
An amazing inside look not only at the Staple Family but at the musical landscape of American Folk, Blues and Black Gospel music!! How the music of the 60's, and 70's crossed all categorical lines in the public arena!! A great read for all music lovers!!
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
I was disappointed in that I thought the book would have more ...14 août 2014
gwendolyn a. bell
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I was disappointed in that I thought the book would have more bio on Mavis Staples and most of what the book had instead was family info and social commentary. I appreciate the times were turbulent for African Americans and I know that played a part in the music they made and that was an interesting part of the book, however I would have liked to have had a more personal portrait of Mavis. I do not say reading this book is a complete waste of time, however I would recommend reading other books more highly than this one.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Excellent Book about Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers23 mai 2014
Misty D. Walker
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
Before I read this book, the only thing I knew about Mavis Staples the Staple Singers was their songs "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do It Again". After reading this book, I realized how little I knew about the Staples family and how unfair I was to judge them by only two songs. The book presents the history of the family; their roots and their beginnings. It continues through through their early performances up to the present day. The author tells us about their friends in the music industry and I enjoyed imagining backyard barbeques with the Staples Family and Mahalia Jackson. Because they were somewhat before my time, I didn't know how popular they were at the height of their career nor how influential they were and the impact they had during the Civil Rights Movement.
The author clearly enjoys their music as he describes their songs with a critics ear. Because some of his descriptions were so thoughtful, I looked up some of the songs on YouTube so I could hear what the author appreciated so much. He describes why they were game-changers in the music industry giving the reader an appreciation for their musical innovations and for their courage to sing their style music without mimicing others.
I enjoyed reading this book. I just wish it came with an accompanying CD!
"...You're Not Alone..." - I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, The Staple Singers And The March Up Freedom's Highway by GREG KOT11 mars 2015
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Father of two, all-round-good-egg and a respected critic at the Chicago Tribune since 1990 - GREG KOT has also authored three acclaimed music books - "Ripped: How The Wired Generation Revolutionized Music", "Wilco: Learning How To Die" and "Beatles vs. Stones: Sound Opinions On The Great Rock 'n' Roll Rivalry". This is his 4th musical tome...
Published in 2014 by Scribner of the USA in Hardback (308 Pages) - "I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, The Staples Singers, And The March Up Freedom's Highway" is the first fully sanctioned autobiography of what many feel is an American institution long overdue hysterical praise - a God given thing of wonder - the voice and heart of MAVIS STAPLES. I'll be blunt here. I've loved her voice, her music, her spirit and her healing effect fro my whole life - having been a lifetime fan since those STAX Records sides in the early Seventies (the book takes its title from their 1972 hit). I'd high expectations for "I'll Take You There" and I'm thrilled to say it doesn't disappoint.
And what a journey it's been - filled with never-before-told stories of growing up in segregation Thirties and Forties Mississippi - onwards with Pops and The Staples Singers to shaking church rafters with Sam Cooke in the Fifties - becoming both Gospel and cross-over artists in the explosive civil-rights Sixties - and global bone-fide Soul Superstars in the Seventies. The book then goes into the desert of the Eighties and re-emerges with Prince in the Nineties and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco in the Naughties. You wouldn't mind if her last two albums "You Are Not Alone" (2010) and "One True Vine" (2013) were no good - now in her late Seventies they're probably the best of her career.
KOT cleverly keeps the chapters short and sweet - they last only 6 to 8 pages each and there's 43 of them - each packed with extraordinary names that crossed the family's path across nearly 7 decades (Charlie Patton, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy and Ella Johnson, Lou Rawls, John Carter of The Flamingos and The Dells, Johnnie Taylor, Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin, Martin Luther King, Harry Belafonte, Billy Preston, Levon Helm of The Band and Hilary Clinton to name but a few). One of fourteen children himself - Roebuck "Pops" Staples was 18 when he married his childhood sweetheart Oceola Ware in 1933 (she was 16). By early 1936 and with his trusting wife and two young kids in tow (Cleotha and Pervis - Pervis would later manage the band) - hothead Pops defied his father's advice, scrounged for a whole year until he had the $12 bus fare needed and left the dead-end South for the music of Chicago. Yvonne Staples came in 1937 and Mavis followed in July 1939. Soon the family of singing siblings were doing ensemble vocal renditions of Gospel songs with Dad on his trademark guitar - practising in their apartment as a way to pass the time. But after they earned $7 one Sunday afternoon by wowing the Gospel crowds with their sheer spirit and uncanny harmonising - Pops began to see how he could support his family long term. Little did he know that such a humble beginning would spawn a musical career lasting way past his sad passing in 2000.
The beauty of a book like this is that it covers so much of America' turbulent history - a virtual step-by-musical-step through Americana. You get example after example of horrible racism, the civil rights movement and the redeeming bringing-together power of music. Through interviews - Kot gets the good and the bad of what happened - and to whom. Yet throughout Mavis remains positive and forgiving - bad career decisions - broken marriages - never having children - all of it anchored by family, music and a mighty, mighty faith. The chapters also document the very real difficulty the family had with their peers as they tried on many occasions to shed pure Gospel for their version of righteous Soul - and how their eventual success at Stax elicited howls of 'sell out' derision from people they loved and admired - and how they toured in places where blacks just didn't go. We get her brief affair with Bob Dylan, support shows with Rock acts like Love, Steppenwolf and Traffic - collaborations with Steve Cropper of Booker T & The MG's as she took her first tentative steps into a solo career in 1969. There's stuff on Iran in 1970, Ghana in 1971, the WattStax Festival in 1972 with "Respect Yourself" on to headlining an anti-apartheid South Africa concert in 1975. There's stuff on Vee-Jay, Epic, Stax and Warner Brothers.
Her meeting the mercurial Prince is described as Holy Ghost Moment and that same collaborative magic happened again with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. His "You Are Not Alone" is probably the single most gorgeous song Mavis has sung in damn near 40 years - full of great message and heart - a hopeful Soulful ballad of hope ("I wanna get it through to you...you're not alone...every night I stand in your place..." Isn't that beautiful - much like her good self and this uplifting book...