The iconic rhythm and blues and gospel singer Mavis Staples comes to the Island as part of the M.V. Summer Concert Series. She’ll perform in a special fundraiser for WMVY Radio on Tuesday, August 14, at 8 pm at the Performing Arts Center, as the radio station celebrates its 35th anniversary.
Also an actress and civil rights activist, Staples recorded and appeared with her family’s band, the Staple Singers, led by her father Pops Staples. The Staple Singers are most known for the hits “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There.”
Mavis Staples was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Lauryn Hill in 2005, and along with the Staple Singers, was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Staples’ album “You Are Not Alone” won Best Americana Album at the Grammy Awards in 2016. She was recognized as a Kennedy Center honoree in 2017, with an introduction by President Barack Obama.
Her latest album, “If All I Was Was Black,” features the song “Build a Bridge.” In the song, Staples reinforces her activist roots:
Look around at our city
Look at us out on the street
Got kids looking over their shoulders
People looking down at their feet
I’m tired of us living so lonely
I hope I know what to do
Gonna build a bridge right over the ocean
I’m coming right over for you
Jess Phaneuf, music director at WMVY Radio, said she’s thrilled to welcome Staples to the Island for the show.
“Mavis Staples is a living musical legend, with a stunning résumé that includes being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and being both a Grammy winner and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement honoree,” Phaneuf wrote in an email. “And just last weekend, she made a surprise appearance to close out the Newport Folk Festival as the leader of an all-star cast of singers, to bring down the house with the civil rights era classic, ‘Freedom Highway.’”
Phaneuf said she thinks the show will prove to be both “powerful and memorable.”
Rolling Stone wrote in November 2017: “Her lyrics are potent, vivid and politically charged …” In a Rolling Stone interview, Staples talked about how her newest album was inspired by current political events, and it harkens to some of the politically motivated songs sung long ago by the Staple Singers.
Indie/soul performers Dwight and Nicole open for Staples.
Tickets are available through the MV Concert Series, and net proceeds benefit MVY Radio’s local, independent, nonprofit programming.