Of all my brother-in-law Jeff Tweedy’s projects, what could possibly be more exciting than his collaboration with gospel legend Mavis Staples? He produced her new album, which will be released in September, wrote the title tune, and sings on several of the tracks. 71-year-old Mavis all but adopted my two nephews during the recording (which took place at Wilco’s Chicago loft) and I’m hoping her honorary grandmother status extends to Charlie and Leah. Here is a just-released video featuring Mavis and Jeff:
What a love fest! “I don't know where Tweedy's been all my life!” Oy, this from a woman who sang with Aretha, recorded two albums with Prince, and was proposed to by Bob Dylan. She didn’t pursue that relationship because she was worried what their close family friend Martin Luther King, Jr., would have thought of her being with a white man. Mavis’s dad, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, scoffed at that worry. “Haven’t you been listening to what that Dylan kid is saying?” Pops asked his daughter. “Don’t you see all the white people marching with us?” Mavis speculated on what it would have been like if she and Dylan had married and started a family. “They’d be some poetry-writing, singing kids, wouldn’t they?”
“I’m so happy to be connected to the Wilco band, period,” Mavis said in a recent Guardian interview. “Most of the time when the session is over, you just take a deep breath and you’re grateful that everything went right. But this one, I hated to see it wrap up. I would have loved to do one more song…I told Jeff, ‘It’s cartwheel time for me. I can’t do it, but I’ll get one of my nieces and nephews to do a cartwheel for me.’”
Here’s a clip of Mavis with her family, the Staple Singers, singing one of their biggest hits at the 1973 Grammy Awards. Hot damn, that woman can sing. Welcome to the family, Mavis!