Well, this Chi-Town icon of soul and the sanctified didn’t marry Bob Dylan, but she still made some (rock) history anyhow. In the pop realm, Sister Mavis and her family band, the Staple Singers, are chiefly known for their early-’70s Muscle Shoals–spawned hits “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There” cut for Stax, as well as their performance of an immortal version of “The Weight” with the Band in The Last Waltz. However, much of this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s vital work was done offstage, forging links across America’s entrenched divides from Woodstock to Watts. And despite the loss of family and the lack of respect from an idiotic industry, Miz Staples has continued to make essential music, whether in the company of acolytes like Marty Stuart or the re-covering of Buffalo Springfield in her inimitable gritty style to fearlessly instigate change while her much-younger colleagues twiddle their thumbs as the American empire burns. Listening to Sister Mavis testifying, one knows ain’t nobody gon’ turn her around—and hopefully not us either.
Sun., Nov. 9, 8 p.m., 2008
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 5, 2008