Mavis Staples speaks volumes to the crowd during her set at the Which Stage on Saturday, June 10, 2018.
Anthony Merriweather | MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
“Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” belts Mavis Staples during her sweltering Which Stage set Saturday afternoon.
The crowd joyfully responded, much to her liking. “Sounds like ya’ll ready,” she said warmly.
The legendary singer’s band looks to one another in affirmation and begin to jam. Soon afterward, Staples ordered her band to bring down the sound, soundtracking her next statements.
“This song that we’re gonna sing for you right now … It’s a song that we would wake up with in the morning and go to sleep with in the evening, back in the day,” said Staples, a longtime Civil Rights activist back to her days singing with the world-renowned R&B and gospel family band The Staples Singers, led by her father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples.
“Back in the day, we would march up and down the Southern highways with Dr. Martin Luther King … We would march all down through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee … Just marching. Pretty soon we would march up on the police. Yeah, they would stop us and ask us to show them our papers to march. We didn’t have no papers, didn’t need no papers. But they put us in jail anyhow. They would put us in jail ya’ll, but we were getting back out. And start all over again.”
Mavis Staples, who turns 79 years old next month, then let out a soulful wail before segueing into “Freedom Highway,” written in the early 1960s by her father.
“March for freedom’s highway,” she sang. “March each and every day.”