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I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom's Highway Hardcover – January 21, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Never forgetting their down-home southern roots even as musical styles changed, the Staple Singers for decades maintained an integrity that strongly appealed to fans and musicians. Music journalist Kot chronicles the amazing story of a family that went from a hardscrabble life in Mississippi to Chicago’s church circuit to worldwide fame, merging the genres of roots, gospel, and soul. Pops’ distinctive guitar playing and Mavis’ big voice became their signatures. They rode the chitlin’ circuit in a Cadillac, with Pops carrying a gun in his attaché case along with their earnings. Kot details their friendships with scores of artists, including Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan (who proposed to Mavis), Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, and Prince. Drawing on interviews with Mavis and other musicians, Kot details the creative process behind the hits “Heavy Makes You Happy,” “Respect Yourself,” and “I’ll Take You There.” With an exuberance that matches the Staples’ sound, Kot portrays their ups and downs through gospel, the message music of the civil rights era, R & B pop music, the disastrous move to disco, and, finally, trying to find themselves again. Meanwhile, Mavis’ career as a solo artist culminated in a 2011 Grammy for best Americana album. This is a moving tribute to a very talented family and one gracious woman, in particular. --Vanessa Bush

Review

“[I’ll Take You There] takes us deep into the golden age of Mavis and her marvelously talented group.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A biography that will send readers back to the music of Mavis and the Staple Singers with deepened appreciation and a renewed spirit of discovery…. Through it all, the ebullience of Mavis Staples and her music shine through.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Kot chronicles the amazing story of a family that went from a hardscrabble life in Mississippi to Chicago’s church circuit to worldwide fame, merging the genres of roots, gospel, and soul…. This is a moving tribute to a very talented family and one gracious woman, in particular.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers are a mighty river running through more than a half-century of song, connecting Sam Cooke to Prince and Bob Dylan to Wilco. Thoroughly researched and elegantly told, I’ll Take You There offers powerful and inspiring insight into not only American music, but American history.” (Alan Light, author of The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”)

“A lively, engaging family biography, written with the Stapleses' cooperation and filled with vivid portraits, celebrity cameos and descriptions of music so evocative I kept wishing the book had come with a set of CDs.” (Tampa Bay Times)

“Emotional honesty resonates throughout I'll Take You There. Kot provides an unflinching look into the Stapleses' struggles to maintain their spiritual and artistic integrity… I'll Take You There is a biography that's well worth the heavenly journey.” (NPR)

"[A] fascinating testimony. . . . Kot’s portrayal of Mavis is deft and balanced, worthy of a performance that, no matter howoften you play it, never fails to live up to the promise of its title." (Chicago Tribune)

"Kot depicts the endurance of Mavis Staples and her family’s music as an inspiration, a saga that takes us, like the song that inspired this book’s name, to a place where ain’t nobody crying." (Washington Post)

“Kot’s take on the singer’s immense discography is invaluable, and Staples’ indomitable spirit shines through." (The A.V. Club)

“A thorough and illuminating biography that offers plenty of revealing details about a group the Band’s Robbie Robertson once likened to ‘a lonely train in the distance.’” (Paste)

“Involving from beginning to end. . . . [Kot] charts the [Staples] family’s origins in gospel music; their gradual drift into folk, soul and pop; the reverberations of their increasingly political songs during the civil rights era. . . 'I'll Take You There'...is rich musical history." (New York Times)

"Remarkable. . . . With Mavis opening up the Staples archives and providing access to family and friends, Kot...[shapes] a story bigger than just that of a singing group. " (The Commercial Appeal)

"A darn good story. . . . Whisking readers over a span of nearly 100 years, author Kot presents aroller-coaster ride of the highs and lows of one of gospel and soul’s mosticonic families. . . . a great look at history, both musically and culturally. . . . If you’re a fan of soul, R&B or gospel, “I’ll Take You There” is a bookyou’ll want to corner." (The Topeka Capital Journal)

"That Staples' life story is deeply intertwined with the Rev. Martin Luther KingJr., Sam Cooke, the Band, Bob Dylan, Lou Rawls, Jeff Tweedy, Prince, ArethaFranklin, Mahalia Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, Stax Records andJerry Butler is no mean feat. . .The gems are here in all their richness." (Windy City Times)

"Fascinating... Musical analysis doesn't get much better." (DownBeat)

"Kot has a knack for distilling the stuff of interviews and research into pithy descriptions of the Staple Singers’ lean years." (The Nation)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (January 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451647859
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451647853
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Greg Kot has been the music critic at the Chicago Tribune since 1990. He has established a national reputation not just for his comprehensive coverage of popular music -- from hip-hop to rock -- but for enterprising reporting on music-related social, political and business issues. His Tribune-hosted blog, Turn it Up, is considered a must-read for music buffs and industry insiders alike. With his Chicago Sun-Times counterpart Jim DeRogatis, Kot cohosts Sound Opinions, "the world's only rock 'n' roll talk show," nationally syndicated in over twenty markets and avialable worldwide on the web. Kot has been a regular contributor to Rolling Stone since 1992, and has written for Details, Blender, Entertainment Weekly, Men's Journal, Guitar World, Vibe and Request. Kot's biography of Wilco, Learning How to Die, was published in June 2004. He lives on Chicago's Northwest Side with his wife, two daughters, and far too many records.

Customer Reviews

An entertaining read and worth checking out.
santo mollica
I liked it for the same reasons and because in some ways it is my story.
Tina
This is a fascinating story of a unique time in American history.
Stephanie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By MAXIMILLIAN MUHAMMAD HALL OF FAME on January 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Mavis Staples is a strong voice and this book is a strong read and it takes you through different paths and times this book talks about family time, talks about the industry and the various stages and aspects. very good book and alot of information. this is a good read and a artist who hasn't gotten her due and her family for that matter. the Staple Singers were always the truth musically.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carl Bean on February 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An amazing inside look not only at the Staple Family but at the musical landscape of American Folk, Blues and Black Gospel music!! How the music of the 60's, and 70's crossed all categorical lines in the public arena!! A great read for all music lovers!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Misty D. Walker on May 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Before I read this book, the only thing I knew about Mavis Staples the Staple Singers was their songs "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do It Again". After reading this book, I realized how little I knew about the Staples family and how unfair I was to judge them by only two songs. The book presents the history of the family; their roots and their beginnings. It continues through through their early performances up to the present day. The author tells us about their friends in the music industry and I enjoyed imagining backyard barbeques with the Staples Family and Mahalia Jackson. Because they were somewhat before my time, I didn't know how popular they were at the height of their career nor how influential they were and the impact they had during the Civil Rights Movement.

The author clearly enjoys their music as he describes their songs with a critics ear. Because some of his descriptions were so thoughtful, I looked up some of the songs on YouTube so I could hear what the author appreciated so much. He describes why they were game-changers in the music industry giving the reader an appreciation for their musical innovations and for their courage to sing their style music without mimicing others.

I enjoyed reading this book. I just wish it came with an accompanying CD!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gwendolyn a. bell on August 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was disappointed in that I thought the book would have more bio on Mavis Staples and most of what the book had instead was family info and social commentary. I appreciate the times were turbulent for African Americans and I know that played a part in the music they made and that was an interesting part of the book, however I would have liked to have had a more personal portrait of Mavis. I do not say reading this book is a complete waste of time, however I would recommend reading other books more highly than this one.
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Format: Hardcover
Father of two, all-round-good-egg and a respected critic at the Chicago Tribune since 1990 - GREG KOT has also authored three acclaimed music books - "Ripped: How The Wired Generation Revolutionized Music", "Wilco: Learning How To Die" and "Beatles vs. Stones: Sound Opinions On The Great Rock 'n' Roll Rivalry". This is his 4th musical tome...

Published in 2014 by Scribner of the USA in Hardback (308 Pages) - "I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, The Staples Singers, And The March Up Freedom's Highway" is the first fully sanctioned autobiography of what many feel is an American institution long overdue hysterical praise - a God given thing of wonder - the voice and heart of MAVIS STAPLES. I'll be blunt here. I've loved her voice, her music, her spirit and her healing effect fro my whole life - having been a lifetime fan since those STAX Records sides in the early Seventies (the book takes its title from their 1972 hit). I'd high expectations for "I'll Take You There" and I'm thrilled to say it doesn't disappoint.

And what a journey it's been - filled with never-before-told stories of growing up in segregation Thirties and Forties Mississippi - onwards with Pops and The Staples Singers to shaking church rafters with Sam Cooke in the Fifties - becoming both Gospel and cross-over artists in the explosive civil-rights Sixties - and global bone-fide Soul Superstars in the Seventies. The book then goes into the desert of the Eighties and re-emerges with Prince in the Nineties and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco in the Naughties. You wouldn't mind if her last two albums "You Are Not Alone" (2010) and "One True Vine" (2013) were no good - now in her late Seventies they're probably the best of her career.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andre D. Haynes on November 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book that is informative, very well written and a joy to read. The book arrived on time, in great condition. This book also has a 2014 copyright date. I recommend this book for anyone that is interested in 'The Staple Singers' and history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew C. Langert on February 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not sure what was better: Greg Kot's thorough, meticulous research or the masterful way he tells the Staples story. Kot is a brilliant critic who really gains a deep understanding of the artists he studies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By tyrone chatter on September 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Outstanding book chronicling the history of the Staple Singers. I learned so much more about the famed family. A good read for anyone.
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