Posts Tagged ‘Mavis Staples’

“Private Space”- Available at the Principle Gallery, VA

Oh, they tell me of a home where my friends have gone
Oh, they tell me of that land far away
Where the tree of life in eternal bloom
Sheds its fragrance through the unclouded day

Uncloudy Day, Josiah K. Alwood 

Still on a semi-hiatus here on the blog but wanted to continue playing my Sunday Morning musical selection. This week I am going way back with a gospel tune called Uncloudy Day, written by Josiah K. Alwood in 1879. We’re not going back quite that far for this week’s pick but it’s still pretty old, taking us back to 1956 when The Staple Singers first recorded what is probably the definitive version of this song. 

This is a powerfully performed song, with the droning bite of the undertone from the electric guitar of Pops Staples and an emotional vocal lead from Mavis Staples. It’s hard to believe but Mavis was only 16 years old when she recorded this.

It’s reported that this song was a huge influence on a young Bob Dylan. His appreciation didn’t stop at the song as he pursued and proposed to Mavis Staples in the early 1960’s. She turned him down but they have maintained a close friendship and working relationship to this day, recording and touring together periodically over the many decades that followed.

Anyway, it’s a song that always stops me in my tracks and I think anything that makes you stop to listen is a good song to kick off a Sunday. 

Be careful out there and have a good day.

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“Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”

–Wendell Berry


Man, I want to rage this morning.

It would certainly be easy to do so. We are going through multiple serious crises right now in this country and the ship of state which would normally lead and assist us through this is being steered by a creature whose attitude towards his duty is self-serving and neglectful, at its best, and traitorous, at its worst.

Maybe even treasonous, given yesterday’s revelations.

But I don’t want to go that route. Like the poet Wendell Berry’s words above, this president*** willingly lives his life in the realms of rats and roaches. Today, let’s focus on the flip side of that coin, the human side that lives under the laws of justice and mercy.

Where most of us are privileged to live.

Let’s have some hope that truth will overcome the many falsehoods and lies. That intelligence will prevail over stupidity and science over ignorance. Let’s hope that a sense of community and good will shall sweep away the hateful and selfish behaviors exhibited so often these days.

Let’s just keep a little hope alive and remember these days when they finally come to an end so that perhaps we can avoid them in the future.

That’s asking a lot, I know. For this Sunday morning music here’s a classic song from the great American songbook. It was written by Stephen Foster (who has local connections to this area) in 1854 at a time when America was going through equally hard times in those years leading up to the Civil War. This is Hard Times Come No More as performed by Mavis Staples. It’s such a great tune that there is a multitude of  wonderful versions out there but I just felt like Mavis’ version fit the moment for me.

Give a listen. Keep your head up and have a good Sunday.


Hard Times Come No More

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh Hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

While we seek mirth and beauty and music bright and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more

— Stephen Foster

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“She Glides Through the Fractured Night” Now at the Principle Gallery


Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.

― Horace Mann


I am just going to let the words of Horace Mann hang out there this morning.

Most of us are probably unaware of Horace Mann outside of it being in the names of many public schools all around the nation– there is most likely one somewhere in your region. But Mann, an educator and politician, was a leading advocate for universal public education and for standing up for the rights and betterment of others. In fact, the words on his statue at Antioch College, where he served as its first president until his death in 1859, read:

Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity

I think he probably died without shame.

Let’s hope we all can do the same.

Here’s a favorite song of mine from Mavis Staples. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 10 years since I last played it here.

Time do fly, do it not?

Have a good day.

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GC Myers- In the Window- Worlds Beckon smLast week, we watched the HBO documentary  Mavis! which is, of course, about the career of singer Mavis Staple.  Ever since I have been going to YouTube to listen to her early gospel work with her family, the Staple Singers, in the 1950’s.  It’s just great stuff, a little gritty and blues-edged beneath with her vocals soaring above it all.  It seemed so ahead of the time, especially given what was being played on pop radio at that point.

I thought for this Sunday morning music I would keep this simple and play one of my favorites, I’m Coming Home from 1959.  I think it’s a great example of what they were doing then.

I picked the painting above for this song.The painting at the top is from my In the Window series from back in 2005 and is titled In the Window: Worlds Beckon.  I chose it for this post because it reminded me of the thought of going home in the way of this song, that there is another world beyond this one.  We may exist in this room, this life,  now but there’s a whole different one just outside the window.  That’s how this painting always struck me and it jibes with the song, at least for me.

Anyway, enjoy and have a great Sunday.

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Mavis StaplesFinding some sort of joy in one’s life might well be the answer to most of life’s questions.  It nourishes us and gives meaning to the moments of our lives.  It makes us want to face the new day.

That state of joy is a mighty potent force.

There are people who exude that joy from their very being and I think singer Mavis Staples is one of those people.

Had a chance to see her show last night in Corning and her joy in this world and her music seemed obvious to me.  At age 76, she has a new album, Livin’ On a High Note,  coming out in February and she just rolls on.  Over sixty years of performing and the effects of advancing age can’t diminish her in any way on that stage.  Just a powerful force.

One of the highlights of the show was her performance of Freedom March, a song written back in 1963 by her father, Pops Staples, to mark the famed Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in that year.   For this Sunday Morning Music, I thought I’d share an performance of it from a few years back. Good stuff.

Have a great Sunday and try to find a little joy of your own…



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Maple Grove Cemetery HorseheadsWe take a walk just about every day in a local cemetery.  It’s not overly large nor does it  have  grand mausoleums or many elaborate memorials.  It’s not even an extremely beautiful cemetery, although there are lanes such as the one shown here that I find lovely.  It’s just a pleasant place to walk in relative quietness.

Part of our routine is to pick up garbage that blows into the cemetery or is left behind by slobs who feel that all the world is their trash bin.  It seems that hardly a day goes by that we don’t retrieve at least a handful of bottles, cups, fast food packaging and crumpled cigarette packs.  I don’t know how much we have picked up over the years but it is a considerable amount.

Too much.

I have began to simply accept that most people feel some sort of right to let others be responsible for their trash but it’s hard not to get angry at the sheer laziness of it.  But we’ll no doubt continue to pick up others’ garbage.  I like this place and the calmness of it plus both Cheri and I have family members and friends buried here.  So, it just seems like a simple act of respect to pick up a few things to keep their graves clean.

I thought I would have this week’s Sunday morning music match the thought.  Here’s the great Mavis Staples singing See That My Grave Is Kept Clean. Have a great day and keep it clean out there, okay?

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Sometimes there is a coming together of influence and the end product in creating a painting.  Such is the case with this painting, a new piece that is an 18″ by 18″ canvas, that will be going to my next show, Toward Possibility, at the Kada Gallery in Erie, which opens November 6.

I watched a segment on The Colbert Report featuring a song, You Are Not Alone,  from Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy written for Mavis Staples, the legendary R & B/ gospel singer.  The two performed the song and I’ve had it in my head ever since.  During the next few days, as I was working on this canvas, the sound of that song and Mavis Staples’ voice constantly seemed to be pushing this piece along.  It affected how I viewed it as I was painting it and affected the determination of its endpoint, its completion.  It was pretty evident to me that this piece was destined to be called You Are Not Alone.

I like the ambiguity in the title.  It could represent not being alone in the obvious spiritual sense but in the human sense as well.  We all share commonalities in our travels through this life although it often feels as though we are going absolutely alone down our chosen paths.  It’s an important reminder that while our paths might be unique, the feelings that we experience are often the same as others on other journeys.  We react as humans.

This is a very simple painting but there is a lot going on within it, as far as color and texture, that give it the needed depth to carry the mood.  The feeling I carried from the song led me to keeping the composition sparse, with no distant landscape in the background and the Red Tree being the sole focus of the canvas.  I wanted that pure focus in this piece and everything in it pushes the eye to that central figure, creating an atmospheric feel that carries the weight of the painting.

Okay, I’ve said enough.  Here’s an acoustic version of the song with Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy.  Hope you’ll see what I heard…

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