Celebrating the extraordinary gospel and soul music legend and civil rights icon, who rose to fame as lead singer of the legendary family group The Staple Singers, the first feature documentary on her life, “Mavis!”, debuts Monday, February 29, 9:00-10:25 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on HBO, the network announced today.
Jessica Edwards directs.
In conjunction with the film’s HBO debut, her new album, “Livin’ on a High Note,” will be released by ANTI- on Feb. 19.
Highlighted by dynamic live performances, recent behind-the-scenes video, rare archival footage and recordings, and conversations with friends and collaborators, among them Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Tweedy, Levon Helm, Chuck D, Al Bell, Julian Bond and Sharon Jones, “Mavis!” explores the struggles and triumphs of a remarkable artist’s ongoing journey.
Mavis Staples got her start in music singing with her family, including sisters Cleotha and Yvonne, brother Pervis, and their father, “Pops,” at a Chicago church. The group drew notice in local gospel-music circles. By the mid-’50s they’d signed to Vee-Jay Records, subsequently recording “Uncloudy Day,” the first gospel song to sell a million copies, while forging a novel sound that fused two musical genres: blues and gospel.
As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the ’60s, the Staple Singers became a mainstay at rallies led by Dr. Martin Luther King, whose favorite song was the group’s “Why? (Am I Treated So Bad).” They attracted the attention of musicians like Bob Dylan. Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” (“How many roads must a man walk down/Before you call him a man?”) struck a chord with Pops, who decided to record it with the Staple Singers, marking the first time a group outside the folk scene covered a Dylan song.
The Staple Singers’ rise to mainstream stardom via secular hits like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” to her recent Grammy-winning renaissance with help from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Mavis’ history is equal parts music and activism. Today, the 76-year-old singer’s message of peace and social justice resonates strongly with audiences.
HBO Documentary Films presents “Mavis!”; directed and produced by Jessica Edwards; executive produced by Gary Hustwit; produced by Rachel Mills; cinematographer, Keith Walker; editor, Amy Foote; associate editor, Maya Tippett. For HBO: senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.
Other HBO playdates: Feb. 29 (4:35 a.m.) and March 1 (5:30 p.m.), 2 (12:15 p.m.), 4 (9:00 a.m.) and 12 (3:40 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: March 9 (10:00 p.m.), 13 (1:45 p.m.) and 29 (12:50 p.m., 11:30 p.m.)
The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO and HBO On Demand.