July 24, 2024

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Mavis Staples is an American institution. She’s not finished singing yet

Mavis Staples is an American institution.  She’s not finished singing yet

Purvis broke the news of Prince’s death when she arrived to perform at Coachella. She wanted to go home and cried until sunset the next day. she Delivered An energetic monologue on stage, describing him as “the most beautiful soul I’ve ever met” before bringing up a little “purple rain”, as the audience claps to the beat. “It helped,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot of hard times, and good times, but I’ve managed to get through it. Things don’t seem as difficult as they used to be.”

She meant this only for herself. Although many conditions had improved since the days of “Why? (Have you been treated so badly)” or “Respect yourself,” she lamented that progress had not been linear. She scowled at the end of Roe v. Wade, was upset by a recent string of women punched in Manhattan, and lamented the black mother and daughter in Georgia accused of voter fraud. She once believed that singing could change the world, but now she thinks that is naive.

“I sing for myself too, to free my soul and feel better about the way I live,” she said hurriedly. “If you don’t want to hear it, get you some earmuffs. I will sing as long as the Lord allows me to. I don’t come easily.

Its crowded In a backstage room at the YouTube Theater in Los Angeles in mid-April, Staples hovered over a birthday cake decorated with her face, clutching a chef’s knife. For three hours, dozens of stars — including Wright, Jackson Browne, Norah Jones, Chris Stapleton and Michael McDonald — took to the stage, mixing Staples’ songs with stories about her. Although she won’t turn 85 until July 10, her team planned for this birthday when retirement seemed imminent. She’d had some cognac, so she was holding court.

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“Eight five may be “Be the new 35,” she said. “But I’m telling you, I’m having more fun than I ever have in my life. I have work to do, and I’m taking you all with me.”

She started talking about her parents and how they picked cotton near Mound Bayou, Miss. And when a voice echoed the name of that small town, I knew it was Taj Mahal, the blues legend sitting two feet away in a wheelchair. They started flirting, singing childhood love songs back and forth and talking about hitting keys. Staples and Mahal are two among a dwindling group of performers still working into their 80s. The aides watched in stunned silence. “This was the best birthday of all my birthdays,” Staples said as his daydream broke. “Now I’m going to cut this cake.”