Happy Birthday, Mavis Staples!

Whether it’s on spirituality-based pop songs like “Respect Yourself” or on politically and socially charged “message” songs like “When Will We Be Paid?,” Mavis Staples’ soaring vocals transport listeners, convincing them that they have the power within themselves to bring change either to themselves or to the world.

Born in Chicago on July 10, 1939, Staples got her start as a member of the family band The Staple Singers, led by the crunchy guitar playing of her father Roebuck “Pops” Staples and featuring the voices of her siblings Cleotha, Yvonne, and Pervis. Through the late ‘50s, the Staple Singers played in churches and on local radio shows and had a hit with their version of the gospel song “Uncloudy Day.”

During the ‘60s, the group combined the swaying force of spirituals and the energetic rhythms of pop music to address questions of social injustice. As the musical voices of the Civil Rights Movement, they delivered stirring versions of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.” The Staple Singers scored a string of popular hits in the early 1970s including “I’ll Take You There,” “Do It Again,” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me).”

Mavis Staples launched her own solo career with her self-titled album in 1969, releasing five studio albums between her debut and 1996, including two—1989’s Time Waits for No One and 1993’s The Voice—that were  recorded at Prince’s Paisley Park Records. In 1996, she released a tribute to one of her mentors and inspirations Mahalia Jackson, Spirituals & Gospels: Dedicated to Mahalia Jackson. Staples’ 2004 Have a Little Faith kicked off an active recording period for the singer. From 2004 to 2019 she released a new album approximately every three years, including 2007’s We’ll Never Turn Back—a compilation of spirituals and Civil Rights anthems, produced by Ry Cooder—and 2010’s You Are Not Alone, the first of three albums produced by fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy. In 2022, Staples released Carry Me Home, a live album recorded in collaboration with her long-time friend Levon Helm at his studios in Woodstock, New York.

Over her career, Mavis Staples has received numerous accolades for her work. In 1999, she and the Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2018 they were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In 2005, she and the Staple Singers received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Staples won a Grammy Award for Best Americana Album in 2011 for You Are Not Alone, and she won a Grammy for Best American Roots Performance for “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” in 2015. Staples was made a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2016, and she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

On April 18, 2024, a stellar collection of fellow artists including Chris Stapleton, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Tweedy, Keb’ Mo’, Norah Jones, Taj Mahal, and The War and Treaty, among others, gathered at Hollywood’s YouTube Theater for “Mavis Staples’ 85th All-Star Birthday Concert,” a three-and-a-half hour extravaganza celebrating Mavis Staples and her enduring contributions to music. The evening closed with the ensemble gathering onstage for an inspiring performance of Robbie Robertson’s “The Weight,” recalling the moment when the Staple Singers joined The Band to sing the song during their Last Waltz performance at Winterland in 1976.

We celebrate Mavis Staples’ 85th birthday with a few of her performances. Happy birthday, Mavis Staples!

“Wrote a Song for Everyone”

“Farther Along”

“No Time For Cryin'”

“Hard Times Come Again No More”

“The Weight”

“Respect Yourself/I’ll Take You There”

“If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)”

“Masters of War”





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