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Sebastian Wilson
Sebastian Wilson

The Staple Singers ((HOT))

The Staple Singers have been performingtheir blend of gospel, folk and Delta blues music since 1935. From thestreets of Harlem to the arenas of Africa to the corridors of the Rock 'nRoll Hall of Fame, their call of peace and compassion has remained steadfastthrough America's most turbulent times. No matter where their travels tookthem, the family has always embraced the values of their Chicago home. Chicago Stories tells their engaging story with the help of family members,and such friends and celebrities as Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, NatalieMerchant, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Albertina Walker, V-103 Radio'sHerb Kent and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Featured also are a number ofThe Staples' most popular songs, including "Respect Yourself," "I'll TakeYou There" and "Why Am I Treated So Bad." Roebuck "Pops" Stapleswas born in 1915 on a plantation outside Drew, Mississippi. He became interestedin the blues at an early age when he met legendary blues man Charley Patton,who inspired him to learn the guitar and greatly influenced his sound.Pops also felt an affinity with gospel music, and when he and wife Osceolamoved north to Chicago in 1935, he brought the blues influence with him.As he worked in the stockyards by day, he began to teach his children gospelpieces. "My first memory of where we lived was 506 East 33rd Street," hisdaughter Mavis recalls. "And in fact, 506 is where we began singing. Thisis where Pops set us on the floor in a circle and gave us our parts." Naturalmusicians, they quickly developed a stirring and unique sound. Once Popsdetermined that they were ready, the family began performing in local churches.They began recording a few years later, and finally broke through in 1956with the gospel classic "Uncloudy Day." Harry Belafonte sums up the Staple Singers' appeal: "There's hardly a dimensionin black life in its richest sense that cannot be found in the music ofthe Staples. Not only the political and overt social message that someof the songs have, but the religiousness of the spirit. It is the embodimentof the struggle of black people in America." "Pops" Staples passed away in December 2000. The south suburb village of Dolton,of which he had been a longtime resident, has honored his outstanding accomplishmentsby renaming a street in his name. This edition of Chicago Stories is narrated by performer and multiple Grammy-winnerBonnie Raitt, who in 1992 collaborated with Pops Staples on his album Peaceto the Neighborhood.The Staple Singers' Greatest HitsThe Staple Singers charted 15 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: Why? (Am I Treated So Bad) (1967)For What It's Worth (1967)Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom (1971)You've Got to Earn It (1971)Respect Yourself (1971)I'll Take You There (1972) #1 hitThis World (1972)Oh La De Da (1973)Be What You Are (1973)If You're Ready (Come Go With Me) (1973)Touch a Hand, Make a Friend (1974)City in the Sky (1974)My Main Man (1974)Let's Do It Again (1975) #1 hitNew Orleans (1976) Mavis Staples on Meeting Dr. Martin Luther KingWemet Dr. King in 1963 at Montgomery, Alabama. We happened to be there, wewere working there that night. And Pops called us all to his room thatSunday morning and said, "Listen you all, I'm going down to Dexter AvenueBaptist Church to see Dr. Martin Luther King. I've been hearing this manand I want to see him and I want to meet him." So he wanted to know ifwe wanted to go with him. We said, "Yeah, Daddy, we want to go." We allwent to his church at 11 o'clock service. Dr. King was a young man. CorettaKing was singing in the choir, she had a baby in the arms. And he acknowledgedus and at the end of the service, Dr. King stands at the back of the churchat the door, to shake hands with everyone. And he spoke to Pops. He talkedfor a while. We get back to the hotel and Pops called us to his room again.He said, "Listen you all, I really like this man's message. And I thinkif he can preach that, we can sing it." And we said, "Okay, Daddy." Sowe started writing protest songs. Our first protest song we wrote was MarchUp Freedom's Highway. That was for the march from Montgomery to Selma.Then we wrote Washington Is A Long Walk to D.C. for the march to WashingtonD.C., and on and on. We'll Get Over. When Will We Be Paid For The WorkWe Done. We joined the movement. We traveled with Dr. King, to help raisefunds for the movement. Pops wrote a song called Why Am I Treated So Bad.He had seen the Little Rock 9, you know, we were sitting in the livingroom, watching the news, Pops laying back in the recliner. And everyonehad given these kids permission to go to school, I mean, to board thatbus. The governor, the mayor, the president. Everyone had given them permissionto board the bus. This particular morning when they got ready to boardthe bus, a policeman put his billy club across the door. And Pops layingback in the recliner, he said, "Now why they doin' that? Why they treatin 'emlike that? Why they treatin 'em so bad?" He started writing that song rightthen. And that turned out to be Dr. King's favorite. Any time we were together,he would say, "Stape, you gonna sing my song tonight, right?" Pops said, "Yeah,we gonna sing it, Doctor, we gonna sing it." So that was some cherishedmemories, meeting Dr. King and, and traveling with him, listening to himspeak every night. Just moments you'll never forget. Rev. Jesse Jackson on the Staples and Their MusicIt was gospel, but with a style that was different. That style had thatDelta Blues that Pop Staples had learned. Pop was from the Delta, the deepDelta Mississippi. But what made them even more different was they evolvedfrom being just gospel and spiritual to being more folksy and more contemporary.They would talk of running down the highways on their trips writing songs,speaking about the objective conditions of social segregation. And manygroups accepted their place in the back of the bus. The Staples did not.That was a dignity factor. I have to say that the Staples were the forerunner of taking the musicmessage to another level. Most great singers sing love songs or they singblues songs. But the Staples unabashedly sing songs Dr. King could identifywith. And we talk very much about the Staples, they became stars, but likelow hanging grapes of the vine, they were stars that we could touch. Imean, they never got disconnected from our stratosphere. The Staples becamekind of a everyman's group as it were. You know, we are combinations of our nature, our parents' genes, and ourenvironment. I mean look at the Staples' environment. Mavis Staples andPops and Pervis and Cleo, they knew Sam Cooke. They traveled with the PilgrimTravelers, with the Dixon Hummingbirds, with Jimmy Jones Harmonizing Four,with the Caravans. With Lou Rawls when he was with the Soulsters beforehe went solo. They traveled with Johnny Taylor, with Aretha Franklin, withReverend Sierra Franklin. And many of them ate dinner at the table of theStaples, 'cause Mom was a great cook. And the family, when the groups wouldcome to town to sing at DuSable or some place, invariably at that timethey really couldn't eat downtown, number one. But to have a home cookedmeal, we would always end up at the Staples home. And so they became thetable to all these great artists. You know, if the walls in the Stapleshome could talk, they'd have many messages and much music. [With] the Staples it was this combination of music and message that Icall soul and science. And they were talking that relevant talk. You coulddemonstrate to their music. Or you could shout to their music. The StapleSingers were unabashedly freedom fighters. The rappers are now into the message of sorts. And often the message wasa kind of raw vulgarity and sometimes barbarity. Staples never crossedthat line. They had the gospel foundation. Sometimes the blues beat, butthe message of liberation. Read the lyrics of their songs, you will finda message that moves people. Staplesbecame fusion. They became the bridge between the gospel and the blues.Gospel and the blues both have very sad origins, born of pain. Differenceis in the blues, you go down twice, you come up once. In the gospel, it'salways a "good news" ending. There's always some resurrection beyond thecrucifixion. There's always some brighter day ahead, beyond the cloudsof today. And the Staples had that connection of blues origin and gospelending. And that's why they are cherished and legendary. In many ways, they are a global treasure. And I've seen them sing [in ruralareas] where they had huge crowds, and kind of not be respected enoughin Chicago. Chicago does not appreciate the Staples like it appreciatesthe Blues Brothers, but it ought to. The Staples are very much a part ofthe huge cultural tradition. "Pops" Staples and daughters Cleotha, Yvonne and Mavis in performance in Africa. Respect YourselfIf you disrespect everybody that you run intoHow in the world do you think anybody's s'posed to respect you?If you don't give a heck 'bout the man with the Bible in his handJust get out the way, and let the gentleman do his thingYou the kind of gentleman that want everything your wayTake the sheet off your face, boy, it's a brand new day Respect yourself, respect yourselfIf you don't respect yourself Ain't nobody gonna give a good cahootsRespect yourself, respect yourself If you're walkin' 'round thinkin' that the world owes you something causeyou're hereYou goin' out the world backwards like you did when you first come hereKeep talkin' 'bout the president won't stop air pollutionPut your hand o'er your mouth when you cough, that'll help the solutionYou cuss around women but you don't even know their namesThen you're dumb enough to think that'll make you a big ol' man Respect yourself, respect yourselfIf you don't respect yourselfAin't nobody gonna give a good cahootRespect yourself, respect yourself

The Staple Singers



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