Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Mavis Staples


"I DIDN'T START DOING SOLO BY choice," says Mavis Staples, 53. "I had to, because no record company-would sign my family. They said we were too old." The family, of course, is the Staple Singers, the renowned gospel group formed in the '50s, whose members also included Mavis's sisters Yvonne, 54, Cleo, 58, brother Pervis, 57, and their guitar-plucking "Pops," 77. The family started on the Southern circuit, raising the roof at Martin Luther King's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, before switching to secular message music in the '60s. Though their pop album Bealtitude: Respect Yourself "went gold in 1972, the Staples were never able to match that success, and in 1987 they stopped recording.

"I was looking sad, and my father said, 'Mavis, you gel someone to record you, because the Lord has given you a voice.' " Not long after, she recalls, "Pops called me and said, 'Mavis, Prince is looking for you.' I said, 'What prince?' And he said, 'That one they call purple, Mavis!"

And so it came to pass that the purple one—long a Mavis fan—resurrected Staples' career in 1988, when he featured her on his Graffiti Bridge soundtrack, produced her 1989 comeback album, Time Waits For No One and took her to Europe as his opening act in 1990.

"We learn from each other," says Staples, who is divorced and lives in Chicago. "It's good for him to have somebody old enough to be his momma." And as for the moratorium on uttering the name Prince? Mavis laughs. "Being his momma," she declares, "I can call him anything I want!"

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