Mavis Staples celebrated the premiere of her HBO documentary Mavis! on February 24, 2016 at Florence Gould Hall in New York City with a rousing performance culminating with The Staple Singers’ 1972 classic, “I’ll Take You There.” She reminded the joyous audience, “The Staple Singers have been taking you there for 65 years.” The appreciative crowd gratefully responded, rising up and joining her on the chorus of the iconic song that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Staples was joined by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert music director Jon Batiste on piano as she closed her set that included songs from their brand new CD, Livin’ On A High Note.
At 76 years old, Staples remains a charismatic performer, delighting a multi-generational audience filled with millenials who were not even born when she and her family group were at the peak of their success in the 1970s. The film, directed by Jessica Edwards, captures the inspiring career of this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member from Chicago who rose to fame performing with her sisters Cleotha and Yvonne, and their father Roebuck “Pops” Staples. The documentary features interviews with Prince (who recorded two albums with her), Bonnie Raitt, and Bob Dylan, who proposed marriage to Staples, and was rejected. She remembers telling him they were too young, but more importantly, she had to adhere to the family rule that as the youngest sister, she could not marry until after her older sisters became wives.
Mavis! recalls how she and her siblings became close to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through his friendship with their father. Dr. King was a fan of the group, and after his assassination, The Staple Singers continued his legacy, providing part of the soundtrack of the civil rights movement with “Respect Yourself,” “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me),” “Touch a Hand, Make a Friend,” and “I’ll Take You There.” With Mavis leading the way, The Staple Singers defied musical boundaries, incorporating R&B, blues, gospel, rock and country into a unique style attracting a diversified following. Today in a music business that demands and promotes youth, senior citizen Mavis ignores thoughts of retirement as she enjoys a career rejuvenation with this film, a new album, and her 2016 Grammy Award for Best American Roots Performance. Now, she can’t think of slowing down. In the words of the Staples’ 1975 classic composed and produced by Curtis Mayfield, her mind set is, “Let’s Do Again.” Mavis Staples continues to prove she’s an undaunted human dynamo, who can, and will, do it again, again, and again.
Mavis!, a compelling profile of a true living legend. premieres February 29, 2016 at 9 pm ET on HBO.