On Friday the legendary soul singer Mavis Staples released the second single of her upcoming album ‘Living On A High Note‘ in tribute of civil rights icon Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The song is released ahead of Martin Luther King day which is celebrated in the United States on Monday. Staples’ connection to Dr King goes back to the sixties when she, along with her family singing groups The Staple Singers, performed for the civil rights leader. Staples’ father and leader of the group Pops Staples made the conscious decision to risk their fame and fortune by following in Dr King’s footsteps, using their songs and their music as a vehicle to push for equal rights.
(‘MLK Day’ is the latest single to be released from Mavis Staples’ new album Living On A High Note)
The group were one of the most involved with the civil rights movement, participating in the Freedom Marches, recording message songs such as ‘Freedom Highway’, and spreading positivity alongside Martin Luther King’s message. Today Mavis Staples is ensuring that his legacy, and most importantly his message, lives on in the new generation of leaders. In an interview in 2008 with The Guardian she expressed hope that Barack Obama would carry on Dr King’s legacy:
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”[W]e’re freer, but we’re not equal – in our jobs, our schooling, we’re still at the bottom of the totem pole. And Dr King, his dream is not being realised.”[/pullquote]
Written by her producer M.Ward,who has taken phrases from Dr King’s legacy to work into the lyrics, her new single ‘MLK Day‘ is another reminder of the progress American society has made since the assassination of Dr King nearly fifty years ago, but also that more progress needs to be made. And after all these years, Mavis Staples is still providing the soundtrack to the civil rights movement, her words sounding as relevant as ever.