There are many rich musical traditions which came to prevalence during the 1950s and 1960s but Gospel is not one much celebrated outside of certain circles in America. The Staple Singers came out of this tradition but forged links through the freedom movement, folk, soul and R&B to become one of the most influential groups over several decades. Pops, Cleotha, Pervis, Mavis and Yvonne became familiar figures to millions.
Jessica Edwards’ documentary Mavis! focuses on Mavis Staples, the youngest member of the family who was only 13 at the time the band signed their first professional contract. It was her distinctive voice which defined their sound. The family continued to play together until the end of the century. Mavis, now in her ’70s, still continues to have a successful solo career, with Yvonne at her side. The films charts the career of The Staple Family and follows Mavis as she continues to make music.
Mavis Staples is arguably one of the most influential American vocalists and Jessica Edwards’s documentary is a fitting tribute to her music. Whilst The Staple Family themselves came to prominence during the 1970s with hits with Respect Yourself and I’ll Take You There, Mavis! does a great job of demonstrating the importance and influence of their music throughout their career. However, what comes shining through the film is what an incredible and indomitable character Staples is herself.
Mavis! is out in cinemas on Friday.