Mavis Staples Songs of Praise


Mavis Staples

American gospel music legend Mavis Staples leads a congregation in some foot-tapping gospel songs. She talks to Aled Jones about life with her famous family.


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Transcript


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I have a date with a living legend -

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a lady who's sung with all the greats.

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She's even marched with Martin Luther King - she is Mavis Staples.

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Together with her family, The Staples Singers, she sang

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some of the most distinctive songs of the '60s and '70s.

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The good news is she's still going strong.

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Mavis has one of the best voices around -

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but don't just take my word for it!

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Mavis Staples is quite simple one of the greatest singers of all time.

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When she sings a song, the song become alive.

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I love to hear Mavis sing.

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In a special Songs Of Praise, Mavis talks to me about her

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remarkable life - including her time with Dr King.

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There's some uplifting gospel hymns.

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More from Jools Holland and we find out why at 72,

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Mavis just keeps on touring.

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Welcome to North London and a building that used to be a church before it was converted

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into a high-tech recording studio by Sir George Martin.

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Great music has been made here over the years,

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and today will be no exception.

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I'm with a congregation eager to meet the legend that is -

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Mavis Staples!

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APPLAUSE DROWNS WORDS

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Thank you so much.

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Mavis Staples!

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Thank you.

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-Mavis, I guess they love you!

-I think they do.

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-What an honour to have you on the show.

-Sounds like it.

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It's a wonderful pleasure to be here.

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How do you feel being called a legend?

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I feel good about it!

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I guess I've earned it.

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-You most certainly have.

-I have. I've been around a while.

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-You've enjoyed every moment, though?

-They weren't even born!

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You know. I've enjoyed every moment. And I'm not tired yet.

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-I'm not finished yet. I've got a ways to go.

-I'm really glad you said that!

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There's so much to talk about but I think we should get into the heart of the music, if you like.

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-OK.

-What are you going to perform first?

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I'm going to perform I'm Going To Lay Down My Burden.

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-Fantastic.

-Down by the riverside.

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-The stage is yours.

-Thank you. Thank you.

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No more!

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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-Thank you, Al.

-Come and sit down.

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Thank you.

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Thank you.

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How amazing was that? I was thinking whilst I was watching it,

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it takes you to make Air Studios back into a church.

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LAUGHTER

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It is just a wonderful feeling.

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Do you hear those voices? They sound like angels.

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They take their energy from you and you've got so much of it.

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The world got to know of the Staple Singers through Respect Yourself and I'll Take You There.

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-Yes.

-But you guys have been singing, as a family, for so many years.

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Oh, my god, we've been singing now since 1950, 61 years.

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Goodness me.

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APPLAUSE

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And I'm not tired yet.

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It's obvious you're not tired.

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Yeah, we're ready to go on and on.

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My father started us singing...

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I was like about eight years old.

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Pops used to sing with an all-male group.

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The Trumpet Jubilees, six guys...

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And, these men wouldn't come to rehearsal.

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Pops would go to rehearsal, there might be two there.

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He'd come home disgusted.

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He'd go to next week, there may be three.

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He came home that last time and he went straight to the closet,

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pulled out a little guitar, he had bought at the pawn shop,

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and he called us children into the living room.

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Sat us on the floor in a circle

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and began giving us voices to sing

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that he and his brothers and sisters would sing down in Mississippi.

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One sister lived with us, Aunt Katie.

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Aunt Katie came through one night and she said,

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"Shucks, you all sound pretty good."

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LAUGHTER

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I believe I went on to sing in my church.

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And, Lord, we were so glad we were going to sing some place else,

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other than on the living room floor.

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What was the first song you learnt?

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-The very first song, Will The Circle Be Unbroken.

-How does that go?

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# Will the circle be unbroken

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# By and by, Lord,

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# By and by... #

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Yeah!

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# There's a better home awaiting

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# In the sky, lord,

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# In the sky #

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Whoo...

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APPLAUSE

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Yeah!

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Yes, indeed.

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-You're called God's greatest hit makers.

-Yes.

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You know, we made a song back in the '50s, Uncloudy Day.

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And, lo and behold, it was the very first gospel record

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to sell a million.

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We moved on, like you say, Respect Yourself, I'll Take You There,

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some of the church people,

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"The Staple singers, they're singing the Devil's music."

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You know... I would tell the people, "The Devil ain't got no music."

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All music is God's music. You know?

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APPLAUSE

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The Devil ain't got no music.

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-Listen, I can hardly contain myself. Please sing again.

-Yes, I will.

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-What are you going to sing?

-I'm going to sing Wonderful Saviour.

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-Fantastic.

-Oh, what a wonderful Saviour!

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-Make your way to the stage.

-Thank you, Aled. All righty.

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Tell you what, it doesn't get much better than this, does it?

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Mavis Staples and Wonderful Saviour.

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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# I have found a wonderful Saviour Who is freely

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# Blessing me forever, I am His

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# I am His

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-# And He is mine

-# He is mine

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# Lord He's forever walking beside me

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# He's my redeemer He never deny me, I am His

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# I am His

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-# And He is mine

-# He is mine

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-# Yes, Jesus is mine

-# Jesus is mine

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-# I know it's true

-# I know it's true

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# I'm holding His hand on my to heaven

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# On my to heaven

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# Lord, I have found a wonderful Saviour

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# Who is freely blessing me forever I am His

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# I am His

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-# And He is mine

-# He is mine

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# Oh, Lord My burden is now behind me

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# Never no temptation to find me

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-# I am His

-# I am His

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# And He is mine, hallelujah He is ever walking beside me

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# Trust He'll never, never deny me

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-# I am His

-# I am His

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-# And He is mine

-# He is mine

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-# Yes, Jesus is mine

-# Yes, Jesus is mine

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-# And I know it's true

-# I know it's true

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-# I'm holding His hand

-# I'm holding His hand

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-# On my way to heaven

-# On my way to heaven

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# Lord, I have found a wonderful Saviour

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# Who is freely blessing me forever

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-# I am His

-# I am His

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-# And He is mine

-# He is mine

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# I shall follow Jesus to glory

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# Even holler his wonderful story

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-# I am His

-# I am His

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-# And He is mine

-# He is mine

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-# Yes, Jesus is mine

-# Yes, Jesus is mine

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-# And I know it's true

-# I know it's true

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-# I'm holding His hand

-# I'm just holding His hand

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-# On my way to heaven

-# On my way to heaven

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# Lord, I have found a wonderful Saviour

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# Who is freely blessing me forever

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-# I am His

-# I am His

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-# And He is mine

-# He is mine

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-# I am His

-# I am His

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-# And He is mine

-# He is mine

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-# I am His

-# I am His

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# And He is mine-e-e-e. #

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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# I know a place... #

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Mavis Staples has made a big impact, both inside and outside America.

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For one of our leading soul and gospel singers, Beverley Knight,

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Mavis is a major influence.

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'I think the first time I ever recall'

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hearing the voice of Mavis Staples was on the seminal anthem,

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I'll Take You There.

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Hearing that song, hearing that voice and the earnestness behind it,

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just went inside and it never left me.

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I think anybody who has ever sung

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a gospel song, particularly the more traditional gospel songs

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or spiritual anthems, has nicked a little bit from Mavis Staples

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and her approach.

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It's so earnest the way she sings, you have no doubt that she is

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delivering a message, but more importantly,

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it's a message that she believes, wholeheartedly.

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And that is the essence of gospel music.

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The first time I worked with Mavis was

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I was doing a TV show in New York.

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And one of the great things about her was her vibration was one

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of such generosity of spirit that the music came together.

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It's very important in music for people

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for the music they make and the way they play it to be an extension

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of their personalities and that's what happens with Mavis.

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And her generosity and kindness of spirit makes all the music

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all the better because of the way that she is.

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One of the great qualities of her voice is that,

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whatever she sings, it connects the song to the listener

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and that's the important thing that all the great singers -

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whether it was Frank Sinatra or Caruso,

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whether it was Bessie Smith or Mahalia Jackson -

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when they sing...when they sing the song, the words and the poetry

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of the song go like an arrow into your heart.

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And that's the point of a great singer and that is really what

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Mavis Staples has.

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I think she's singing from a relationship she has with God,

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the knowledge that she is a child of God,

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also the awareness or the gratitude

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that God has given her this wonderful gift, erm,

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to be able to sing.

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And not just sing, but sing in a manner that will get an audience

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believing her and that her relationship with God is what

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underpins everything that one is seeing and hearing.

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# Lo-oo-oo-sing, anything... #

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She's so crucial. She is so important and deserves her place among

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the gospel greats.

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I don't know about you, but Mavis has definitely inspired me to sing,

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so let's have a congregational offering.

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This is a traditional hymn, but it's been given a gospel twist.

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Of course it has! This is What A Friend We Have In Jesus.

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-All right.

-All right, indeed.

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Mavis, your family has a fantastic link with history.

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You were the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement.

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Erm, it's a big statement. How did it come about?

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Ah, you know, one Sunday, we happened to be in Montgomery, Alabama.

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We didn't have to work until that night,

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so Pops, he had been listening to Dr King on the radio.

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He called my sisters and I to his room and he said,

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"Listen, y'all, this man Martin is here - Martin Luther King."

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He said, "I've been listening to him on the radio and I like his message.

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"He has a church here. Do you all want to go?

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"I want to go to the eleven o'clock service, do you all want to go?"

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We said, "Yeah, Pops, we want to go."

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We all got in the car and went down to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

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We were ushered in, seated, someone that Dr King knew

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that we were in the service and he acknowledged us.

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He said, "We're glad to have Pops Staples

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"and his daughters here this morning."

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And, after the service,

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he was standing at the door to shake the worshippers' hands

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as they filed out. And my sisters and I,

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we walked past, shook Dr King's hand, and when Pops' turn came,

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he stood there and talked to him for a while.

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He finally came on, we get back to the hotel

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and Pops called us to his room again.

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He said, "Listen, y'all,

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"I really like this man, I like his message.

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"And I think that if he can preach it, we can sing it."

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So we began writing freedom songs. We joined the mood.

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The first song was March Up Freedom's Highway

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and then we wrote

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It's A Long Walk To DC, But I Got My Walking Shoes On.

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LAUGHTER

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What did you think of Martin Luther King?

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You know, I loved his laughter.

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I loved to hear him laugh - you know, loud and jovial -

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because most of the time when I looked at him, he looked so sad

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-and he looked serious, you know.

-Is it true that

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you were dating a white man and were worried about what Dr King thought?

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Yeah, you know, like I said, Aled, I was a young...I was very young

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and stupid.

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LAUGHTER

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I told Pops, I said, "Daddy, you know, how do you think Dr King

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"would feel about me marrying a white man?"

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He said, "Mavis, all white people aren't bad, girl.

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"Haven't you seen all those white people marching with us?"

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And I said, "Oh, Lord!" I had turned down the proposal.

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I couldn't go back and say, "Hey, propose to me again."

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You... You couldn't really, because he was quite

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-a well-known singer-songwriter?

-Yes, he was, he was.

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-And we are still friends.

-We're talking about Bob Dylan, aren't we?

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We're talking about Bob Dylan, yes. You had to tell it, didn't you?!

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I had to, sorry!

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-You weren't going to!

-I wasn't!

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Do you regret not marrying him?

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You know, sometimes I wonder, if we would have had some Staples-Dylan,

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our own little group.

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Great hits!

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That would have been awesome.

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So, what are you going to sing for us next?

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-We're going to sing for you Creep Along, Moses.

-Fantastic. Can't wait.

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-You make your way to the microphone.

-I will.

-Not that you need one!

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-Thank you, Aled.

-Thank you, my love.

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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# Get along, Pharaoh

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# Get lost, get lost

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# Get lost

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# Get along, Pharaoh

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# Get lost, yeah

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# Old Satan, he wears it on like you

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# If you don't mind he'll slip it on you

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# I wonder what the Devil keeps a grumblin' about

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# He's down in hell and he can't get out

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# Now, creep along, Moses Moses, creep along

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# Creep along, Moses

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# Creep along, Moses Moses, creep along

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-# Creep along, Moses

-I'm going home

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# Creep, creep, creep along, Moses Creep along, Moses

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-# Creep along

-# Moses, Moses, creep along

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-# Creep along, Moses

-# I'm going home

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# Get along, Pharaoh

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# Get lost, yeah

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# Went down in the valley to say a little prayer

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# And when I got there old Satan was there

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# I fell down upon my knees

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# I cried, "Lord, have mercy, if You please!

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# Now, creep along, Moses Moses, creep along

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# Creep along, Moses, I've been gone

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# Creep along, Moses Moses, creep along

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# Creep along, Moses, I'm going home

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# Creep, creep, creep along, Moses Creep along, Moses, I've been gone

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# Creep, creep, creep along, Moses Creep along, Moses, I'm going home

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# Get along, Pharaoh

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# Get lost, get lost, get lost

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# Get along, Pharaoh

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# Get lost, yeah!

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# Oh, yeah!

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea

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# Trying to cross the Red Sea. #

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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What a performance, I tell you.

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I wouldn't like to be the congregation,

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because it's your turn now. But we have chosen a fantastic hymn

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for us all to sing. This is Crown Him With Many Crowns.

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CHEERING

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This is Greenbelt, a Christian arts festival,

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held every August at Cheltenham Racecourse.

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We're a festival which celebrates music and all kinds of art

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from our perspective as Christians.

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Tonight, Mavis is the headline act, but just why is she still touring,

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performing festivals rather than enjoying a comfortable retirement?

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I'd sing on the steps of the White House,

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I'd sing at a field in the middle of England, I'd sing in the desert.

0:28:150:28:21

As long as I have my voice, I'll sing.

0:28:210:28:24

So, ladies and gentlemen, we're wrapping up Greenbelt 2011

0:28:240:28:27

with the Grammy-winning gospel legend that is Mavis Staples!

0:28:270:28:32

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:28:320:28:34

# You are not alone

0:28:410:28:44

# I'm with you

0:28:440:28:48

# I'm lonely, too... #

0:28:480:28:50

'When I look out in the audience and see the people smiling

0:28:500:28:55

'and some tearing, it's what I feel that God put me here to do.

0:28:550:29:00

'And that's what I live for.'

0:29:000:29:02

# Isolated and afraid... #

0:29:020:29:05

'My voice is my gift from God'

0:29:050:29:08

and I feel that He put me here, he gifted me

0:29:080:29:13

'to sing His praises.

0:29:130:29:14

'Everybody, welcome aboard!'

0:29:140:29:18

It's the Mavis and Jesus Express.

0:29:180:29:21

SHE GIGGLES

0:29:210:29:23

Tonight, there are a few thousand people happy to board that train.

0:29:230:29:28

-# Take a load of Annie

-Take a load

0:29:280:29:33

-# Take a load for free

-Take a load

0:29:330:29:35

-# Take a load of Annie

-Yeah!

0:29:350:29:38

# And, and, and put the load right on me

0:29:380:29:43

# Put the load on me, oh, yeah! Oh, yeah! #

0:29:450:29:50

CHEERING

0:29:530:29:55

Oh, Mavis, it's been brilliant.

0:29:550:29:59

You are such an inspiration. Isn't she, ladies and gentlemen?

0:29:590:30:01

ALL: Yes!

0:30:010:30:03

-Thank you, thank you.

-Here's an idea, will you come on every week?

0:30:030:30:06

Oh, yes, I'd come back ANY day.

0:30:060:30:08

-You heard it here first.

-I've enjoyed myself so much.

0:30:080:30:12

I'm glad. We've got quite a few witnesses here.

0:30:120:30:15

At the beginning, you said you're not giving up soon. Promise?

0:30:150:30:18

I promise. No way. You're going to have to take a shovel and scrape me

0:30:180:30:23

-up off the stage.

-It's been lovely spending time with you.

0:30:230:30:26

-Thank you, my darling.

-We're going to end with a song,

0:30:260:30:29

like Mavis, has stood the test of time and crossed many barriers.

0:30:290:30:33

It's been a protest song, it's been a rugby song,

0:30:330:30:35

it's been a pop song. It's also a rather nice hymn.

0:30:350:30:38

It's Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

0:30:380:30:39

From all of us here, Mavis included, at Air Studios,

0:30:390:30:42

until next time, goodbye.

0:30:420:30:44

Next week, it's Palm Sunday.

0:33:130:33:16

Sally presents traditional hymns

0:33:160:33:18

from All Saints' Church, Cheltenham,

0:33:180:33:20

with performances of seasonal music

0:33:200:33:22

from Libra, Mary Jess and Only Men Aloud,

0:33:220:33:24

and bible readings for Holy Week from Julian Rhind-Tutt.

0:33:240:33:27

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:33:440:33:47

Email [email protected]

0:33:470:33:49

American gospel music legend Mavis Staples leads a congregation in London's Air Studios in some foot-tapping gospel songs. She talks to Aled Jones about life with her famous family the Staple Singers, campaigning with Martin Luther King and the dilemma of a marriage proposal from Bob Dylan.


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