A major competitor of Motown serving up black music in the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s was STAX Records, which I wrote about extensively HERE.
One of the great groups on the label was The Staple Singers, “an American gospel, soul and R&B singing group. Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1914–2000), the patriarch of the family, formed the group with his children Cleotha (1934–2013), Pervis (b. 1935), Yvonne (b. 1936), and Mavis (b. 1939)… While the family surname is ‘Staples’, the group used the singular form for its name, ‘The Staple Singers’.”
They had appeared on other labels before joining STAX, releasing songs such as For What It’s Worth [LISTEN], a cover of the Buffalo Springfield hit, that went to #66 in 1967 on Epic Records.
When Will We Be Paid (1970 – a description of the song HERE)
Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha Na Boom Boom) (#27 in 1971)
Respect Yourself (#12 in 1971) – my favorite song of theirs
I’ll Take You There (#1 in 1972) – my second favorite
If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me) (#9 in 1973)
Let’s Do It Again (#1 in 1975) – their big hit on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label, after STAX’s demise
The Weight, with The Band, from the 1976 movie The Last Waltz
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
This century, Mavis Staples, who was the primary voice on so many of the group’s songs, has been putting out several well-received albums. The first one I picked up was 2007’s We’ll Never Turn Back. “Produced by roots rock and blues musician Ry Cooder, it is a concept album with lyrical themes relating to the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Upon its release, We’ll Never Turn Back received positive reviews from most music critics. It was also named one of the best albums of 2007 by several music writers and publications.”
“During a December 20, 2008 appearance on National Public Radio’s news show ‘Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me,’ when Staples was asked about her past personal relationship with [Bob] Dylan, she admitted they ‘were good friends, yes indeed’ and that he had asked her father for her hand in marriage.” She ultimately said no, because the interracial relationship would have been too difficult back in that period.
Finally, LISTEN to a live version of Wrote a song for everyone, a tune from her 2010 album You Are Not Alone. That album was produced by Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco.