My introduction to the various members of the Staples family has come in fits and starts, to say the least.
Of course, I first came to know the Staple Singers from their early hits — “Respect Yourself,” from 1971, and “I’ll Take You There,” from 1972. On AM, then FM, if you will.
Yet it was 20 years later before I came to know Pops Staples, the family patriarch. Judging from the hole punched through the CD booklet, I must have brought home an unwanted review copy sent to the paper.
Only recently have I come to learn more about Mavis Staples’ solo career. If you’re a regular visitor, you know her current album of new and vintage freedom songs, “We’ll Never Turn Back,” is among the year’s best.
Today, though, we come in praise of Roebuck “Pops” Staples, who was in his late 70s when he launched a solo career in the early ’90s. A native of Mississippi, he’d been blending blues and gospel since the ’30s. He was a key voice in the civil rights movement, writing and performing freedom songs from the ’50s on.
Pops Staples put out his first solo record, “Peace To The Neighborhood,” in 1992. He followed it with “Father, Father” in 1994. Both are terrific performances, much in the same vein as Mavis’ new album.
Both of Pops’ albums are a mix of originals and carefully chosen covers, with plenty of high-powered guests: Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and, of course, Pops’ daughters, Mavis, Yvonne and Cleotha — the Staple Singers.
So here’s one from each album, originals written by Pops, with the Staple Singers on background vocals. Pops produced the first one. Mavis co-produced the second one.
“This May Be The Last Time,” Pops Staples, from “Peace To The Neighborhood,” 1992.
“Father, Father,” Pops Staples, from “Father, Father,” 1994.