7 Questions with Mavis Staples

From TIME - November 9, 2017

The soul singer and civil rights activist talks collaborating with Bob Dylan, memories of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a new album, If All I Was Was Black, out Nov. 17.

TIME: Youve made 15 studio albums. What inspired you to get back into the studio?

STAPLES: Were living in trying times right now. What Im seeing on the news really makes me feel like Im back in the 60s. These are songs that will inspire people to do better, to love one another, to come together.

One of the songs goes, Theres evil in the world, and theres evil in me, and you go on to say youre going to try harder. What do you mean by that?

We should try harder to love one another. I feel compassion, and I want you to feel the same compassion. We have a man in the White House who has started a resurgence of bigotry and hate. The way he talks and the way he portrays himselfwhat he says doesnt make sense, it doesnt make good sense. And its spreading. Its spreading.

Another song, We Go High, references Michelle Obamas 2016 Democratic National Convention speech. Why did you include that line?

When she said that, I just jumped. Its something that we as black people do. When they call us names, when they talk about us, when we get knocked down, we dont stay down. We get back up.

You have this persistent optimism. Whats your secret to staying hopeful?

I just believe. Its not just for black people, what Im singing about. Its to bring us all together. Ive seen us have a black government; thats something I never thought I would see. As far as us coming together as one, Im gonna keep on praying. But I dont think Im going to see us coming together like that in my lifetime. When I saw that man marching in Charlottesville with torches, my mind was going, The next thing theyre going to do is torch a cross. Ive seen burning crosses. The only thing thats different is that the Charlottesville marchers didnt have white sheets over them. My heart gets heavy, but when I sing these songs, I get lifted.


Continue reading at TIME »