Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mavis Staples Talks about Dylan, Tweedy Project and Roseanne

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mavis Staples Talks about Dylan, Tweedy Project and Roseanne

Article excerpt

On the recent tour that came through Pittsburgh in November, Mavis Staples was talking to Bob Dylan backstage, reminiscing about the old times.

From many reports, we know it's not every opener that gets to hang with Dylan.

"I was different on that account," she says sharply in a phone interview, "because I wasn't having that. He had to talk to me. I told him at one point, 'Bob, I've been wanting to see you.' He said [doing Dylan voice], 'Well, if you had married me, you'd have seen me every day.' I said, 'You are so right ... and don't be so mean!'

"I often wondered what would have gotten on if we'd gotten married," she adds.

We can all ponder how an interracial union between the voice of a generation and one of the legendary Staples Singers would have changed the world in 1964.

"We were very young," she says. "We were just fresh out of our teens. I said, 'I'm too young. I'm not ready to get married. I don't even know how to cook!'"

Fifty-some years later, the 78-year-old Staples, who did indeed learn to cook, can still belt out a tune with a fury and is still fighting the good fight for freedom and racial harmony. She opens the Three Rivers Arts Festival, touring behind her 16th album, "If All I Was Was Black," a third project with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.

"It was like Tweedy knew what I had to say," she says of the Grammy-winning partnership. "He knew. I was ready to voice my opinion on a lot of stuff. I enjoy so much working with him and it's so easy. He writes the best songs in the world.

"We did have a little argument," she notes. "He'd written this great song, 'If All I Was Was Black,' and then he was afraid to make it the title of the album. I said, 'No, Tweedy, this is the title.' He said, 'People are going to say, "Who does he think he is, he can write songs like this? He's not black." I said, 'You are black! Look at you, look at your lyrics, you know all about it.' We talked a while, and his wife came through, and he said, 'Susie, Mavis says I'm black.' Susie goes, 'If Mavis says you're black, you're black!'

When he initially brought her that title track, she says her heart started pounding, because it captured just what she wanted to say. …

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