Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples has an album in the works with another Chicago home town hero, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. The two performed together at Lollapalooza; Staples later stopped by the station for a surprising duet with WBEZ’s Rob Wildeboer. (Did anyone else know he could tickle the ivories like that?!)
Staples describes how in her youth there was an uneasy relationship between gospel and R & B; gospel artists who “crossed over” to singing the blues for a more secular, mainstream audience often felt the wrath of their churchgoing brethren. (A subject explored in depth in another great Amplified event, Sinners in the Choir: The Black Church and the Devil’s Music.) Here, Staples describes her introduction to secular music during the summers she spent with family in Greenwood, Mississippi. It seduced her, but she never abandoned her gospel roots.
Click here for Mavis Staples’ full talk with the Chicago Freedom School. The event was held at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and was recorded by Chicago Amplified, a program of Chicago Public Media.
“O Day” by Bessie Jones, from “The Alan Lomax Collection: Southern Journey, Vol. 1 – Voices from the American South.”
“Since I Fell For You” by Nina Simone, from “The Soul of Nina Simone.”
Editor’s Note: The version of “Since I Fell For You” that Mavis Staples likely heard as a child in Mississippi was the 1947 version released by Annie Laurie with Paul Gayten and His Trio, which according to Wikipedia eventually reached #3 on the “Race Records” charts and #20 on the pop charts. I used the Nina Simone version from 1967 because I liked how it matched the cadence of Staples’ rendition during her talk. You can find the Annie Laurie version on iTunes, although I don’t think I can post it here in its entirety because of copyright issues.