Legendary soul singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples has released a timely new album titled, “If All I Was Was Black.” This thoughtful album is steeped in folk and soul musical influences, but it’s also simplistic in its arrangements, highlighting Staples’ civil rights songwriting. The 78-year-old singer continues to examine her worries about America, thus grounding the statement, “If All I Was Was Black.”
She sings, “If all I was was Black, looking at you, you might look past all the love I give. I’ve got natural gifts, got perspective, might my make you shift the way you look at it. I’ve got love.”
This album is a perfect musical accompany of today’s times, but the album is also broad and timeless enough that it would have been just as relevant in the ’60s.
Just finishing a number of dates with Bob Dylan, Staples continues a long legacy of gracefulness, lending her messages of self-reflection and compassion to the world, just when we need it the most.
Rolling Stone wrote, “Staples says Trump’s ‘race-baiting rhetoric’ got her thinking about how little has changed since she traveled the country singing at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches. ‘It seems that there’s suddenly been a rebirth of bigotry and hate—it’s like I’m reliving the sixties,” she says, before bringing up Charlottesville: ‘The only difference that I saw between back in the day and those men marching with torches was that they showed their faces. … No sheets.’”
If there was any album to add to a Black family’s holiday wish list, this album is No. 1. It’s going to go down as an important postmodern civil rights collection of songs, but it’s also able to ground any listener in understanding and compassion for the Black struggle. Mavis Staples’ “If All I Was Was Black” is a perfect illustration of what America’s Black artists and leaders can lend to this rocky and unpredictable time in American Black History.