Song Of The Day 6/1/2016: The Staple Singers – “Long Walk to D.C.”

Wax of Stax – I can't think of any Staple Singers songs I like more than this one. Pops Staples' tremolo-heavy guitar introduction never fails to snap me to attention. It's the same kind of simple wake-up alarm John Fogerty perfected on his CCR hits, or that Stax house axeman Steve Cropper could economize. Mavis Staples has an amazing voice. It's steeped in tradition but nobody else in R&B sounded similar. The miniature inflections you can only detect if you're looking really hard, the ones that make her sound at home whether she's singing gospel, protest or, heh, "Let's Do It Again."

"Long Walk To D.C." was written by a kid, at the time, named Homer Banks. It was written from the standpoint of a participant in Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington in 1963, the same year all the Staples met King in Montgomery, Alabama, and the same year King wrote "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." The Staples happened to be in Montgomery the night before King spoke at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. I found a great account from Mavis on a PBS affiliate site:
Pops called us all to his room that Sunday morning and said, "Listen you all, I'm going down to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to see Dr. Martin Luther King. I've been hearing this man and I want to see him and I want to meet him." So he wanted to know if we wanted to go with him. We said, "Yeah, Daddy, we want to go." We all went to his church at 11 o'clock service. Dr. King was a young man. Coretta King was singing in the choir, she had a baby in the arms. And he acknowledged us and at the end of the service, Dr. King stands at the back of the church at the door, to shake hands with everyone. And he spoke to Pops. He talked for a while. We get back to the hotel and Pops called us to his room again. He said, "Listen you all, I really like this man's message. And I think if he can preach that, we can sing it." And we said, "Okay, Daddy." So we started writing protest songs.

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