By Alison Baumgartner
Mavis Staples’ soul-stirring voice has been a part of the fabric of gospel, soul, blues, folk, pop, R&B, and rock music for more than 60 years. On January 20th, Staples’ legendary raw and rasping voice, which became an anthem for the civil rights movement, will fill The Lincoln Center Performance Hall.
At 80 years old, the iconic singer is more relevant than ever, collaborating with chart-topping artists like Hozier, Gorillaz, Bon Iver, and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy just to name a few. Staples’ most recent album If All I Was Was Black addresses racism in America today, where the present is filled with ghosts of the past.
Staples recalls a time in 1964 when it almost ended before it started. After performing a Staple Singers show, her family stopped for gas. When Staples asked for a receipt, the gas attendant called her a slur and told her she would have to go back to the office for it. Her father went in her place. The attendant called him the same slur and her father grabbed the slip from the attendant’s hand and hit him. The attendant came after them with a crowbar. The family fled and headed for the state line, but not before the attendant called the police claiming that the Staples’ had beaten and robbed him. At 1:00 a.m. the West Memphis police, brandishing shotguns, demanded she and her family get out of their car.
At that time, Staples says, “black people could just be killed. I thought they were going to lynch us.”
Fortunately, the family survived the night and continued to perform creating Top 40 hits like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.” Mavis went on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the Blues Hall of Fame.
Staples’ seeks to lift people up with her music. “Bring us all together as a people—that’s what I hope to do. You can’t stop me. You can’t break me. I’m too loving,” she says. “These songs are going to change the world.”
Mavis Staples plays the Fort Collins Lincoln Center January 20th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20 and are available at LCTix.com.