There aren't many performers alive today with catalogs more extensive in both gospel and contemporary music than Mavis Staples. The gifted singer got her start in the early 1950s as a teenager and gained acclaim as part of the legendary gospel outfit the Staple Singers. The group had strong spiritual appeal and was also deeply connected with the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968, Mavis and her Staple Singer cohorts signed with Stax Records and began recording secular soul albums, two of which were backed by Booker T. and the MGs. The group had two number-one hits, "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do It Again," but it was evident they were drifting away from their gospel roots. Mavis eventually started recording on her own and even fought her way toward pop appeal while recording two albums under the creative direction of Prince. Through it all, the 40-year music-industry veteran has developed a legacy in both secular and spiritual music circles that can't be denied. In recent years, Staples has made a comeback of sorts, reasserting her gospel reputation, traveling the festival circuit, and, in an unlikely twist, connecting with Anti-Records. She played Bonnaroo Music Festival this year in support of her new album, We'll Never Turn Back, and she'll be in Hollywood this weekend, undoubtedly singing gospel, soul, funk, and anything else she wants. With a voice as superb as hers, the crowd should be in for a treat no matter what songs she chooses.
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