She’s back

Mavis Staples’ timeless call for freedom continues with new record

(Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

“I’ve been making people cry for so many years, and I just want to sing something joyful.”

That’s how 76-year-old Mavis Staples set out to record her new solo record, “Livin’ on a High Note,” which is set for a February 19 release. In an interview with The New Yorker, Staples explained how for her latest record, she called on others in the industry — Neko Case, Merrill Garbus, and Ben Harper, to name a few — to write songs for her M. Ward-produced album. For a civil rights legend who has spent her career singing freedom songs from days past — or songs written by her father, Pop Staples, with the Staple Singers — the change was invigorating. She was greatly inspired by Pharrell William’s global hit, “Happy.” “When the world was just so upside down, [Williams] brought a lot of people up with that song,” she said.

With the energy of pop music, songwriters pulled from the headlines — a lesson learned from Pop Staples — and the power of the African American experience that they saw reacting to violence throughout the country. Garbus’ contribution includes the line “What a terrifying time to raise our voices, but we aren’t left with any more choices.” She says she turned to Staples’ 1960s hits for inspiration and found it “so fucked up” that civil rights anthems still had “the exact same level of relevance.”

Read the full story at The New Yorker.

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