About this event
Hailed by NPR as “one of America’s defining voices of freedom and peace,” Mavis Staples is the kind of once-in-a-generation artist whose impact on music and culture would be difficult to overstate. She’s a civil rights icon, a multiple Grammy® winner, a chart-topping soul/gospel/R&B pioneer with her family group The Staple Singers, a member of both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a National Arts Awards Lifetime Achievement recipient, and a Kennedy Center honoree. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., performed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, and sang in Barack Obama’s White House. Staples has collaborated with everyone from Prince and Bob Dylan to Arcade Fire and Hozier, blown away countless festivalgoers from Newport Folk and Glastonbury to Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, performed with The Band at The Last Waltz, and graced the airwaves, from major talk shows to Austin City Limits.
At a time when most artists begin to wind down, Staples ramped things up, releasing a trio of critically acclaimed albums in her 70s with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy that prompted Pitchfork to rave that “her voice has only gained texture and power over the years” and People to proclaim that she “provides the comfort of a higher power.” In between records with Tweedy, Staples teamed up with a slew of other younger artists—Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Nick Cave, Valerie June, tUnE-yArDs, and M. Ward among others—for Livin’ On A High Note, an album that first introduced her to Ben Harper, who would go on to write an entire album of material that became Staples’s 12th studio album, 2019’s We Get By—a clarion call to love, to faith, to justice, to brotherhood, to joy. Backed by her longtime touring band, Staples breathes extraordinary life into Harper’s compositions, delivering roof-raising performances with both a youthful vigor and a commanding maturity. The arrangements are spare but weighty, matched by Harper’s suitably lean and thoughtful production, and Staples seizes the opportunity to showcase her remarkable and continued evolution as an artist, one still growing and exploring more than half a century into her storied career.
“I sing because I want to leave people feeling better than I found them. I want them to walk away with a positive message in their hearts, feeling stronger than they felt before. I’m singing to myself for those same reasons, too.” — Mavis Staples