Mavis Staples Sings



Tonight. Chicago cold winds howl outside while Bonnie Raitt, Emmy Lou Harris and music royalty names too numerous to list start singing inside the golden light bulb warmth of the storied Auditorium Theater honoring Mavis Staples at 75. Inside the walls of Adler and Sullivan’s acoustical masterpiece of a building, fresh and alive as it was when in first opened in 1889, Mavis Staples gets recognized for being one for the ages.

The hard, gritty and sweet street song tones pouring out the very soul of the big city. First Pops, then her sisters and now she is still out there singing. Then go back. Even before. In other ages, you can almost hear her then. Look! Mavis Staples! Singing right next to the swampy river bottom paths leading up from the lakeshore, the very first time a wandering European said to the native American, “Psst. Yeah you. Would you like to buy some land?”

Go back then start listening, whistling, clap your hands and dancing. And she’ll be here. She will. Through the blues, and the funk and the jazz and the folk songs and the rhythm of the night then a brand new day. ‘Cause if you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody else gonna give a good cahoot’.

Listen to Mavis sing and you know, you just know, that once there was a time when she, like so many of us, could not afford the price of a ticket into tonight’s gala. So you relish the fact that she made her way inside, and on the way forged a connection between her sweet home Chicago and the world. You celebrate what she earned. And then suddenly . .

You smell barbeque ribs on the grill. Fried chicken and greens. Buried deep inside the same frigid wind outside you smell a new inside. You smell the memory of summer in that barbeque. A side yard up against a three flat apartment building. At the Staples family home on the south side of Chicago. Mavis is here but she is upstairs laughing in the kitchen. Somewhere someone is tapping out a rhythm, the beginning of a harmony and the tables are weighted down with a feast for the ages because everyone is invited here. And everyone showed up. In the last sunny light of a late summer afternoon, Mavis and her sisters will start singing, you will get to listen, you will see her smile.

You will hear her sing.

Video Credit: Zoran Ordic

2 Responses to “Mavis Staples Sings”

  1. hcgagel Says:

    Were you there?

  2. chicagoguy12 Says:

    No–that’s why I had to write this. Tickets were too much for me!

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