Mavis Staple is a Chicago great, and an integral name in the make up of Chicago's musical landscape. And in just a few weeks, Mavis is back here in her hometown with a performance you won't want to miss. But first, let's take a look back at Mavis Staples' incredible career.
When Mavis Staples began her career in music in 1950, when she was around ten years old, we wonder if she ever thought that more than 65 years later she’d still be going strong as one of the most respected artists of her time.
Born in Chicago in 1939, Staples was just a young girl when she joined the family band The Staples Singers. Both as a member of The Staples Singers and a solo artist, Mavis’ career has always been about inspiring others. Hers and her family’s gospel style music led to a strong friendship with Martin Luther King Jr. in the thick of the civil rights movement. The Staples Singers’ positive messages became the musical counterpart to Dr. King’s inspiring efforts. It wasn’t until the 1960s that she began producing solo material, but she would eventually prove that she was just as strong as a solo artist as she was as part of a group.
What followed were six decades of hit singles like “Endlessly,” “Tonight I Feel Like Dancing” and “Christmas Vacation”—which provided a key part of the soundtrack for the National Lampoon’s classic by the same name.
Though she’s well into her 70s now, Staples’ career has perhaps never been stronger. It wasn’t until 2011 that she won her first Grammy Award when she was honored for Best Americana Album (You Are Not Alone).
Despite the fact that her career has taken her all over the world and sparked friendships with legends like Bob Dylan, John Scofield and fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy, she still remains true to the city that raised her. In 2012, she spent her summer being awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Columbia College Chicago and headlining Grant Park’s annual Chicago Blues Festival. The following year she followed it up with a performance at The A.V. Fest Hideout Block Party. Staples next Chicago performance is April 18 at the Chicago Symphony Center. Tickets for the performance are on sale now.
For a more in depth look at Staples’ life and times, be sure to read well respected Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot’s new biography on the singer, I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staples Singers and the March up Freedom's Highway.