Mavis Staples & The Staple Singers: I’ll Take You There

Written by Elaine Sexton

Poet, Critic, Educator

May 14, 2019

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.

Elaine Sexton

Elaine Sexton is a poet, critic, and educator. She is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Prospect/Refuge (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015). Her poems and reviews are widely anthologized and appeared in journals including Art in America, ARTnews, American Poetry Review, O! the Oprah Magazine, and Poetry. She teaches poetry and text and image at numerous colleges, universities, and art and writing centers in the US and abroad, among them Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Arts Workshop International.

NYFOS and Five Boroughs Music Festival recently commissioned a set of poems from Ms. Sexton inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. They have been set to music by a group of women composers and the complete song cycle, titled After Stonewall, will be premiered on June 11 at NYFOS Next: Laura Kaminsky & Friends.

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