Country stars join Taj Mahal, Grace Potter, Buddy Miller and more in special concert for the gospel singer
By Marissa R. Moss
UPDATE: Jeff Tweedy & Spencer Tweedy, Emmylou Harris, Keb' Mo' and Joan Osborne have all been added to the star-studded lineup.
It would seem an impossible feat to match the legendary voice that is Mavis Staples', but a slew of artists, including many country greats, will take the challenge when they honor the gospel powerhouse and activist at I'll Take You There — Celebrating 75 Years of Mavis Staples, a tribute concert in her hometown of Chicago.
Gregg Allman, Ryan Bingham, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Glen Hansard, Taj Mahal, Michael McDonald, Buddy Miller, Aaron Neville, Widespread Panic, Grace Potter and Marty Stuart are just a few of the names announced to offer their interpretations of classic Staples tunes on November 19th at the Auditorium Theater. Staples herself will also take the stage to perform from her broad catalogue of the Staple Singers, Stax Records and solo hits.
"I grew up loving Mavis Staples," Allman tells Rolling Stone Country. "My brother and I used to listen to those Staple Singers records all the time growing up. Those records spoke to me like few others."
Staples, one of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers, is known for unique collaborations, even in the country realm. She offered vocals for Willie Nelson's "Grandma's Hands," preformed a duet with Griffin on "Waiting for My Child to Come Home" from the gospel tribute album Oh Happy Day, and sang with Hansard, Arcade Fire and Jeff Tweedy honoring the late Levon Helm. Though her roots were in gospel and early R&B, Staples transcended categorization with her versions of Bob Dylan (whom reportedly asked the singer to marry him) and Stephen Stills songs, even appearing at famous hipster haven Coachella. As an activist, Staples was a leading force in the Civil Rights movement, paving the way for music as powerful force for change and social engagement, with songs like "I'll Take You There" and "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)."
Produced by Don Was, who recently worked on Martina McBride's 12th studio album, Everlasting, the event will show the breath of Staples' impact on both modern music and popular culture. As musical director, Was will partner with executive producer Keith Wortman, a duo who came together previously in 2012 to honor what would have been Johnny Cash's 80th birthday with another all-star lineup that included Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson.
"There isn't anyone Mavis doesn't touch on a deep level," said Was in a press release. "Not just musicians, but humans everywhere. She is truly one of the most powerful and inspiring American singers of all time." Tickets to I'll Take You There will go on sale September 29th, and the event will also be taped for future broadcast.
"It makes me feel so good that these young people want to hang with me," Staples told Rolling Stone on her cross-generational collaborations. The feeling is surely mutual.