Gospel pioneers The Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. Over their long, acclaimed history, they have become known as much for their secular music as they have been for their gospel. Truth is, the Staples fuse gospel with country, R&B, blues, rock, and folk. The even dabbled in disco in the mid-80s.
When the band was inducted into the Rock hall, they were interviewed as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s interview series. During the interview, Mavis Staples tells the story about going to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s church in Montgomery, Alabama for the first time. It turned out to be a turning point in the family’s musical career. After their visit to King’s church, Pops told his children, “I really like this man’s message. If he can preach it, we can sing it.” From that moment on they started to write protest songs, and to write songs that combined a variety of genres and messages.
Today, Mavis Staples carries on the musical legacy and messages of her family’s band. Mavis’s recent album, If All I Was Was Black. is her third collaboration with songwriter and producer (and Wilco frontman) Jeff Tweedy. Their first partnership in 2010, You Are Not Alone, won a Grammy Award for Best Americana album. Their second effort together, One True Vine, was a Grammy nominee. But If All I Was Was Black marks the first time Tweedy has composed an entire album of original songs for Mavis’ legendary voice and a nation she’s uniquely poised to address.
Watch the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame interview above.