Staples, Mavis

Staples, Mavis, 1939- , African American popular singer, b. Chicago, Il. Staples began performing at age 11 with her father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1914-2000), and her siblings on local radio and for church groups. The group enjoyed their first success in 1956 with the record “Uncloudy Day,” and a year later, after Mavis graduated from high school, began traveling to perform for churches and at nightclubs under the name of the Staples Singers. Mavis sang lead in the group, while her sisters Cleotha (1934-2013) and Yvonne (1937-2018) and brother Pervis (1935-2021) sang harmonies, and their father played guitar and sang bass. In the early ‘60s, Pops befriended civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and the group began recording several “message” songs, including “Long Walk to D.C.” (1968) and “When Will We Be Paid?” (1971). The group also enjoyed major pop hits through 1975, most notably the #1 pop single, “I’ll Take You There” (1972). In 1969, Mavis began recording solo albums alongside her work with the family group, but struggled to establish herself on the charts, despite making an album, Time Waits for No One (1989) that was produced by Prince. Staples enjoyed a major breakthrough in the first decade of the 21st century, beginning with the album We’ll Never Turn Back (2007). The Staples Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and were honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004; Mavis has won numerous Grammys for her solo work, honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of Music in 2011 and Columbia College (Chicago) in 2012, and was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2016 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

See G. Kot, I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom's Highway(2014);Mavis! (2015, doc. film).

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