Home > In the Spotlight, Sunday Morning Music > Sunday Morning Music: Mavis Staples

Sunday Morning Music: Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples at the San Jose Jazz Fest / Credit: Cat Johnson

by Cat Johnson

It’s hard to talk about Mavis Staples without getting all gushy and resorting to saying things like ‘She’s just amazingly awesome,’ ‘You have to check her out,’ ‘She’s one of our great musical treasures’ and other totally non-descriptive fan-rants. But, all of the above statements are true and if you don’t know who Mavis Staples is, a little digging on your part will lead you to one of the greatest gospel, soul, and blues divas that this planet has ever known.

Yesterday at the San Jose Jazz Fest (which I now know is one of the most extraordinary events in the area and am already looking forward to next year), Mavis packed the park, and although she’s slowing down a bit (she took a two-song breather mid-set while the band rocked out), she has still got it. She started her set slow and steady, singing a lot of tunes from her latest (and Grammy-winning) album You Are Not Alone. In between songs she told stories, reminded us of how far the civil rights journey has come and how far we still have to go, and sprinkled in plenty of gospel shouts and hollers. When she sang “I Belong to the Band” the place started rocking and by the time she got to the last song, which everyone in the place knew would be “I’ll Take You There,” the park was a hotbed of energy with everybody singing, dancing, clapping and swaying.

When she left the stage, I just sat there and shook my head, so grateful to have had another chance to see Mavis doing her thing. She is a beacon of love, justice and groove and, as she reminded us, she and her family have been taking us there for over 60 years.

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