When commissioned to compose a sequence of poems to be set to music to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising the song “I’ll Take You There,” from the same era, was among the first that came to mind. A kind of anthem first performed and recorded in 1972 by The Staple Singers, “I’ll Take You There” was a protest song that reflected a kind of optimism, an instant and uplifting hit. Al Bell’s lyrics are a call and response echoing the text of the title, building power on repetition, responding to an idea of hope for a future with: “Ain’t no smilin’ faces / Lyin’ to the races”. The original recording features Mavis Staples as the lead singer. Mavis joined her family’s gospel singing group at the age of 11. The r& b soul singer/civil rights activist, turns 80 this summer––on tour, still singing this still necessary song.
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