Mavis Staples Boasts a Half Decade of Musical Gold
Mavis Staples can be found in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's traveling "Women Who Rock" exhibit, currently on display at the Musical Instrument Museum. However, the soul icon, who ironically won a 2012 Grammy Award in the Americana category, easily could fit in several of the loosely genre-demarcated sections of the exhibit. A look at her career leaves her repeatedly stuck between music worlds.
Courtesy Photo Mavis Staples is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, March 12, at the Musical Instrument Museum.
A child in the 1950s, Staples got her start singing in the family band, the Staple Singers, fronted by her enigmatic father, Roebuck "Pops" Staples. With Mavis handling lead vocals, the group found initial success as a rhythm and blues act — even charting a single in 1956.
Though R&B was instrumental in the foundation and formation of rock 'n' roll, this hit didn't pack quite the rocking effect needed for her inclusion in the "Get Outta the Kitchen, Rattle Those Pots and Pans: Rock and Roll Emerges" section of the exhibit. As a family band, she also misses landing in "Will You Love Me Tomorrow: The Early 1960s/Girl Groups."
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. befriended the group, which also held tightly to its gospel roots. In turn, the Staple Singers lent a face and spiritual voice to the civil rights movement. Covers of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," along with other protest songs, were inspirational and powerful renderings that gave King's followers hope.
These songs were part of the counterculture in original form, and the Staples' use of them clearly was revolutionary in effect; thus Mavis Staples can briefly be found in the "Revolution, The Counterculture and The Pill: The Late 1960s" exhibit section.