Legendary gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples has had a career in music longer than most people have been alive. More than 60 yearsago, at the age of 13 she began singing with her family, The Staple Singers.
The band’s song list, which includes “Respect Yourself,” and “I’ll Take You There,” contains some of the most iconic songs in modern history. Rolling Stone magazine called her the most underrated diva of the century.
She has a new album out called "One True Vine," the second collaboration between the singer and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. Staples joins the show to talk about working with Tweedy and to tell us the story behind a few choice tracks.
On how she first started working with Jeff Tweedy:
"Jeff Tweedy and I first met in 2006, we both live in Chicago, I was doing a concert on the north side at a little funky club called the Hideout and Jeff Tweedy and the entire Wilco band came to that show. Three weeks later, my manager called and said Jeff Tweedy wants to produce your CD and I was surprised. We had lunch at this restaurant, and we must have talked for 2.5 hours. When we left that restaurant, I felt like we could make really good music together."
On how she and Tweedy bonded:
"He started talking about family and that was it, that hit me right in my heart because family was a subject that my father talked about all the time. He instilled in us how important family was and Tweedy was sounding so much like pops, talking about his family. and I said okay, this is it."
On the song "I Like The Things About Me":
"I'm not singing about myself…I'm singing as us as black people. My father wrote this song in 1970 I think it was - and a lot of people back then were ashamed of being black, period. All of a sudden after that song, James Brown came out with "I'm Black and I'm Proud." All of a sudden you saw all of the blacks wearing their nappy hair, wearing natural dos…I feel that the young people today, they are wearing long black wigs, and long extensions, but I don't thin they're wearing it because they are ashamed of their hair, I think it's just a sign of the times today."
On the song "What Are They Doing In Heaven?":
"I'm thinking about my father, my mother, my two sisters…I first heard it when I was a young child, about six or seven years old. I was down in Mississippi at my grandmother's church, and the entire congregation was singing that song. It's just an old song that was written really, in slavery time. All of the people that we're seeing about in that song were having hard times. It's another song that brings the focus on what black people had to go through during that time. They suffered to death and you want them to be singing in a heavenly choir."