Mavis Staples is a powerful individual, a legend who still produces relevant soulful music. Director Jessica Edwards’ first full-length documentary “Mavis!” takes us through the storied career of arguably the most influential American songstress who has refused to hang up the mic, progressing, innovating, still tapping into the source.
She started singing gospel in the 1950s as a teenager with her father Roebuck “Pops” Staples and her siblings as the Staple Singers. They were pioneers of civil rights anthems through the 1960s, crossing over into the folk scene and collaborating with a young Bob Dylan.
They signed with Stax Records in 1968, cutting numerous hits and breaking into the pop market through the mid-70s. She cut a couple of albums with Prince in the late 1980s, and she won a Grammy for Best Americana Album in 2011 for “You Are Not Alone,” produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.
The film is a biopic, yes, but it is goes beyond that, vibrating with the intensely magnetic positive energy of the 75-year-old Staples. If you have never heard Mavis sing, it is amazing gospel, infused with the soul of the Delta blues, a true synergy of the sacred and secular.
“Mavis!” is important documentation of the American musical tradition, witness to the civil rights movement and a testament to the overall power of family, revealing the fortitude of an artist who must be heard.
You can catch “Mavis!” again today (Monday) at 7:30 p.m. at the Marchesa and again at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Vimeo Theater.