Mavis Staples is living, breathing history. She is an alchemist of American music,
having continuously crossed genre lines like no musician since Ray Charles.
Weaving herself into the very fabric of gospel, soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues, rock, and
hip hop over the last 60 years, this iconic singer has seen and sung through so many
changes, always rising up to meet every road.
Now in her seventh decade, with the release of her new album Livin’ on a High Note
(ANTIH), she is only gaining momentum. Produced by M. Ward with songs by Neko
Case, Justin Vernon, Nick Cave, Ben Harper, TuneHYards, Aloe Blacc and others, the
album serves as a summation and furtherance of her illustrious career. Refusing to
fade away, she continues to tour incessantly, remaining as vital, engaged, and true as
always. There is no persona; she is, simply and untouchably, Mavis—and Livin’ on a
High Note is the symphony of her life.
“I think about this album as a new beginning in my career,” says Mavis. “I’m living on
a high note, I’m floating on air. I know I don’t have as much time on this Earth as I’ve
already had, but I see it as saying, ‘Mavis has been here, y’all.’ Before I move on, I just
want to leave some Mavis with you that you’re not used to hearing. I want to leave
you with some joy and love, and some don’t-forget-me songs.”
And with those words, her high note is revealed not as a pinnacle of ease and wealth
but as a righteous life. Mavis is here, having weaved in and through all that fabric
for all these many years, to show us that true joy lies simply in living for others. It’s
the sermon Dr. King gave all those years ago, and we must be grateful that she is
able to echo it for us now. Mavis takes us—not only there, but back, up, and through.
Since her first recording at age 13 in 1954, Mavis Staples has learned from, worked
with, and schooled countless legends, and has brought her own timeless talent to
every performance. From the DeltaHinflected gospel sound she helped create in the
1950s with her father, Pops, and her brother and sisters as The Staple Singers, to the
freedom songs of the Civil Rights era, to pop radio stardom during the Stax era with
hits “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” to The Last Waltz, to serving as
muse to both Bob Dylan and Prince at the peak of their careers, to 21st century
collaborations with Van Morrison, Billy Preston, Zac Brown, Ry Cooder, Chuck D.
and Willie Nelson, to her GRAMMY®Hwinning partnership with fellow Chicagoan Jeff
Tweedy, the one constant has been Mavis and her singular voice. She has embraced
her evolution, absorbing new sounds and ideas, rising to meet the challenges of
longevity and bringing her message of hope and positivity to new listeners, song
after song, show after show.