Mavis Staples has led quite a life.
Most recently the famed singer has a new album out (May 20) with the late drummer and singer Levon Helm. But that work is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Staples.
For starters, legend has it Bob Dylan asked her to marry him several times.
She’s also one of the primary singers in The Staple Singers, which released the seminal hit “I’ll Take You There,” along with many more.
Indeed, Staples is a legend. But what does the now-82-year-old, Chicago-born artist have to say about the world around her, outside of song? What are her thoughts on life, liberty, love, her craft, and more?
Well, that’s precisely the point of this exercise below. So, without further ado, let’s explore the16 best Mavis Staples quotes.
1. “The best music of my life I heard at my grandmother’s church, this little wooden church up on a hill.”
2. “Pops always taught us that family is the strongest unit in the world. If you stick with your family, nobody can break you, nobody can harm you. You’ll always have your family.”
3. “I get my voice from my mother’s side of the family. My mother and my grandmother both had strong voices.”
4. “The kids today have these fresh faces. It’s like they’re on pins and needles, waiting to see what I’m going to do. They’ve never seen me. In the 1960s, those were hippies. They were wired up already. The kids today know me because I’ve worked with Jeff Tweedy and other young producers.”
5. “I’ve got to sing for Pops; I’ve got to keep my father’s legacy alive because he started all of this. So I started calling people, and nobody would give me a chance, but I didn’t let that stop me. I took money out the bank and I started making me a record, and I did it in this guy’s basement.”
6. “Pops, he was a singer’s singer. I loved to hear my father sing. He just was so laid-back and cool. I always wished I could sing like Pops.”
7. “I feel so good singing songs that I sang with my father.”
8. “My high-school a cappella teacher would embarrass me in front of the choir. ‘Mavis, you’re in the basement. Mavis, you’re singing with the boys.’ I said, ‘Mr. Finch, my voice isn’t soprano. I can’t sing up there with the girls.’ So I just got out of the choir.”
9. “We’ve had a great change. Dr King saw to that. I was so grateful to see the ‘colored only’ signs come off the water fountains and bathrooms in the south. But the struggle lives on.”
10. “I never sang for a Grammy, for money, for fame. That’s my whole purpose for singing: for people, for the fans.”
11. “If you don’t get out among the people, how are you going to know what they need to hear about?”
12. “When I come out of my dressing room, I go to my heart and say a little prayer and go out on stage. There I am, coming to lift you up and to motivate you. I want to bring joy. It’s gospel, and gospel is the truth. It’s what I do. I’m going to bring you the truth and lift up your spirit.”
13. “The devil ain’t got no music. All music is God’s music.”
14. “I’m just singing what I feel in my heart.”
15. “Whenever somebody tells me they want me to stop singing, I’m gone.”
16. “It’s been an amazing life. It’s really just been the most magical thing for me—and I have these musical friends from all walks of life.”
Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage