STAPLE SINGERS / ”I’ll Take You There”

pops staples 01.jpg The story properly starts in 1914 in Winona, Mississippi when Roebuck “Pops” Staples was born deep in blues country. Friendly with the legendary Charley Patton, Roebuck made a name for himself playing dances, picnics and such. After switching his allegiance to gospel, Roebuck joined up with the Golden Trumpets, a singing group out of Drew, Mississippi. By 1941, Roebuck had set up homestead in the Windy City and joined up with Chicago’s Trumpet Jubilees. As his children grew, Roebuck formed a family group. Initially it was Cleotha, Mavis and Pervis who supported Roebuck Staples and became known as The Staple Singers. They may have been located in Chicago, but their style was down home. Their initial success was as a folk-gospel group, recording first with Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records and later with Riverside and Epic. The first Staple Singers hit, “Why (Am I Treated So Bad),” was recorded on Epic. staples singers 01.jpg In 1968, the Staples signed with Memphis-based Stax Records and released two albums produced by Steve Cropper and backed by Booker T. & the MG’s. In 1970, Perivs was replaced by his sister, Yvonne and, more importantly, Al Bell became the group’s producer. Bell was responsible for their greatest commercial success. Bell funkified the Staples sound. Songs such “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There” feature iconic bass riffs that by themselves are enough to identify the songs. mavis 02.jpg The Staples sound, now featuring Mavis as the lead singer, became a funky mix of contemporary Seventies sounds, gospel harmonies, jazz elements, and upful messages. All the selections in this week’s jukebox are from the Stax-period release, The Best of The Staple Singers. Here is a wide range of the Staples’ sound. Bob Dylan’s “The Weight” is given the Stax southern soul treatment as Mavis’ smoky lead vocals carry the track. Motown’s Smokey Robinson-penned “You’ve Got To Earn It” prominently features a harmonica but also includes a jazz flute & trumpet duo interlude—amazingly, the song sounds both country and urban. Otis Redding’s “Dock Of The Bay” is distinguished by distinctive harmony singing that is far more complex than it initially sounds. Pops Staples’ heavy guitar vibrato undergirds the song, which rocks peacefully on a bed of soft strings. It is completely different from Otis’ original, but at the same time, this version sounds just right. It’s quite an accomplishment. The pieces de resistance, however, are “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.” Pops was great at crafting succinct and catchy message songs. Even in a period that included seminal work from Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes and a host of others, The Staple Singers maintained their reputation as one of the most popular purveyors of social commentary in song. Other artists may have been better known, but there certainly was no other group that rivaled The Staple Singers as messengers of pride and empowerment. —Kalamu ya Salaam          ‘Honest’ music         The Staple Singers are what I like to think of as "honest" music. Meaning, you get what you see. They're not coming with tricks or angles or sleight of hand. They're serving straight-up gritty soul grooves with gospel-soaked vocals and maybe a touch of pop flavoring to allow the whole confection to go down smoothly. One thing I didn't realize was that Pops Staples is a songwriter. I'd assumed that all of the Staples' hits were either covers or products of in-house songwriters. Of course, all of this music is unimpeachable. It's classic soul music and honestly, you can't say a bad word about any of it. If these records don't make you feel good on this pre-Christmas Sunday morning, you might want to turn in your record collection and get a new hobby. This is the real deal. —Mtume ya Salaam    

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 24th, 2006 at 3:01 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “STAPLE SINGERS / ”I’ll Take You There””

Rudy Says:
December 24th, 2006 at 7:04 am

I’ve always been fond of Mavis. She not only had a wonderful sultry voice, but, my god, she was beautiful, too and they all had those well-groomed ‘fros. They, this family group, took the Word to the people and they did it looking good and fresh. They were as much a part of the Movement as Trane, Shepp and other jazz artists that Baraka brought to our attention. Too little has been written to follow up on Askia Muhammad Toure’s essay “Keep on Pushing: Rhythm and Blues as a Weapon,” initially published in Liberator magazine in 1965 and later in Black Nationalism in America (1970) edited by John Bracey, Jr. and August Meier. In short, they too should be viewed as BAM artists, in the same way that we usually see Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin as part of the popular avant-garde. As Nikki Giovanni said on her record of the period such artists made Motown change their style as well as their tunes. — Rudy

rich Says:
December 25th, 2006 at 10:18 pm

A beautiful choice for Xmas time – the uplifting, reflective quality of the Staples’ vocal harmonies and grooves is just right for this time of year. (Credit where its due for the country rock fans – I think that ‘The Weight’ was written by Robbie Robertrson…himself a huge Staples fan)

          You Are Right         

Words and music by Robbie Robinson. My bad.




Gene Says:
November 26th, 2007 at 9:41 pm

what group rewrote I;ll Take you There?Around about 1994 are 1995 i think .

          not sure – try this 


Leave a Reply

| top |