Mavis Staples Honored in First-Ever Rock Hall Honors Program

Thu 9/19 @ 6:30-9PM

Fri 9/20 @ 8PM

Sat 9/21 @ 10AM

After a 20-year run from 1996-2016, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ended its Rock Hall Music Masters series, which honored a different inductee each fall with a weeklong celebration of their career through panels, talks, films, and concerts.

“That was a really successful and exciting program,” says Rock & Roll Hall of Fame CEO/president Greg Harris. “Quite frankly, when we paused it three years ago, we wanted to reevaluate it and come back with something that we felt was going to be a bit more impactful for all of the energy and expense that goes into it.”

What they came up with is the Rock Hall Honors award. It’s a sort of distilled-down Music Masters program, which Harris said left most audiences remembering the encore moments of the live performances where the featured guest, such as Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis or Don Everly, often performed alongside the roughly one dozen high-profile entertainers participating in the show.

Now the format change shines a spotlight on the honoree’s impact, influence and legacy, while still allowing them to be joined onstage by artists of their choice.

“For Rock Hall Honors, instead of having a parade of artists coming into town and each playing a song or two in honor of somebody, we decided we wanted the honoree to perform,” says Harris. “They’ll be showcased and then we’ll have a couple of guests join them.”

The first Rock Hall Honors award recipient is Mavis Staples, who was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1999 as part of the influential family folk/soul/gospel act, the Staple Singers.

“Mavis Staples is a perfect artist to start off the Rock Hall Honors considering her legacy as an artist and performer, as well as a leader and voice for the civil rights movement,” Harris said. “It’s a special year for Mavis, who is 80 and out traveling with her band.”

The Chicago-based Staple Singers, founded by Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1914-2000), and featuring his four children at different times, began singing in churches in the Windy City in the late ’40s when Mavis wasn’t yet 10, and started recording a string of gospel/folk-style tunes in the early ’50s.

By the time the group broke through to stardom on the pop charts in the early ’70s, with songs like “Respect Yourself” (1971), “I’ll Take You There” (1972), “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” (1973) and “Let’s Do It Again” (1975), the group featured “Pops,” Mavis and her two older sisters, both of whom have passed on, Cleotha in 2013, Yvonne just last year. Their unusual sound, which stirred a strong feel for contemporary R&B, folk and pop into their gospel roots, fueled by a strong strain of civil rights activism and sense of justice, was like nothing else on the charts in the early-mid 1970s.

While the Staple Singers stopped performing in the early ’90s, Mavis has continued on as a solo artist, something she did on the side while performing with her family ensemble. She has collaborating with artists such Prince (who produced two albums for her in the late ’80s and early ’90s), Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Chuck D, Ry Cooder, Arcade Fire, Norah Jones, David Byrne, Hozier and Gorillaz.

The inaugural Rock Hall Honors: Mavis Staples, featuring special guest performers Jackson Browne, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith and newcomer Valerie June, takes place Fri 9/20 at Playhouse Square’s State Theatre. Tickets are $30-$100. For tickets go to tickets.playhousesquare.

“The Voice: A Symposium on Mavis Staples” takes place at Case Western Reserve University’s Tinkham Veale University Center Ballroom A on Thu 9/19. Four panelists, including Jessica Edwards who directed the 2015 film Mavis!, will discuss Mavis Staples’ legacy in this free program. Register here.

Mavis Staples Fan Day takes place Sat 9/21 at the Rock Hall. The Olivet International Baptist Church Gospel Choir performs at 10am on the plaza stage, prior to the dedication of the Mavis Staples exhibit at 10:30. Stories of Rock Trivia: Women Who Rock” takes place at 11am in the exhibit, with “Women Who Rock Jam” in the Garage Jam Room at 1pm. The Valerie June Trio performs on the plaza stage at 2pm. The 2015 film Mavis! will screen throughout the day in the Foster Theater.

For more information go to rock-hall-honors-mavis-staples.

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