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“…You’re Not Alone…”
And what a journey it's been - filled with never-before-told stories of growing up in segregation Thirties and Forties Mississippi - onwards with Pops and The Staples Singers to shaking church rafters with Sam Cooke in the Fifties - becoming both Gospel and cross-over artists in the explosive civil-rights Sixties - and global bone-fide Soul Superstars in the Seventies. The book then goes into the desert of the Eighties and re-emerges with Prince in the Nineties and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco in the Naughties. You wouldn't mind if her last two albums "You Are Not Alone" (2010) and "One True Vine" (2013) were no good - now in her late Seventies they're probably the best of her career.
KOT cleverly keeps the chapters short and sweet - they last only 6 to 8 pages each and there's 43 of them - each packed with extraordinary names that crossed the family's path across nearly 7 decades (Charlie Patton, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy and Ella Johnson, Lou Rawls, John Carter of The Flamingos and The Dells, Johnnie Taylor, Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin, Martin Luther King, Harry Belafonte, Billy Preston, Levon Helm of The Band and Hilary Clinton to name but a few). One of fourteen children himself - Roebuck "Pops" Staples was 18 when he married his childhood sweetheart Oceola Ware in 1933 (she was 16). By early 1936 and with his trusting wife and two young kids in tow (Cleotha and Pervis - Pervis would later manage the band) - hothead Pops defied his father's advice, scrounged for a whole year until he had the $12 bus fare needed and left the dead-end South for the music of Chicago. Yvonne Staples came in 1937 and Mavis followed in July 1939. Soon the family of singing siblings were doing ensemble vocal renditions of Gospel songs with Dad on his trademark guitar - practising in their apartment as a way to pass the time. But after they earned $7 one Sunday afternoon by wowing the Gospel crowds with their sheer spirit and uncanny harmonising - Pops began to see how he could support his family long term. Little did he know that such a humble beginning would spawn a musical career lasting way past his sad passing in 2000.
Her meeting the mercurial Prince is described as Holy Ghost Moment and that same collaborative magic happened again with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. His "You Are Not Alone" is probably the single most gorgeous song Mavis has sung in damn near 40 years - full of great message and heart - a hopeful Soulful ballad of hope ("I wanna get it through to you...you're not alone...every night I stand in your place..." Isn't that beautiful - much like her good self and this uplifting book...