R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

An R&B Staple

04 MAY 09 DAVID NATHAN

These days, it might be hard to imagine any major record company hanging tough through four albums for a sales breakthrough but Stax and label president Al Bell believed The Staple Singers could take their gospel-based sound and make it palatable to both pop and R&B audiences. They were proved right with Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, the 1972 set that boasted not one, but two massive hit singles for the quartet.

When the Staples signed with Stax Records in 1968, they had already achieved recognition as "The First Family Of Gospel," but missing was any kind of mainstream recognition. Roebuck "Pops" Staples, daughters Cleotha and Mavis and son Pervis looked to the Memphis label to take them to a new plateau of success and while their first two albums for the company (Soul Folk In Action and We'll Get Over) did introduce them to an R&B audience, it was the third set The Staple Swingers that achieved greater traction.

"Respect Yourself" was a major pop and R&B single towards the end of 1971, while the now-classic anthem "I'll Take You There," written by Bell, became a No. 1 best-selling 45 for the group in '72 just as their fourth Stax album was released.

Aside from the hits -- a third single, "This World" achieved Top 10 R&B status -- there were superb cuts like "We The People," the funky "This Old Town" (co-written by soul men Don Covay and Wilson Pickett) and Pops' own gospel opus "Who Do You Think You Are (Jesus Christ Superstar)" that made Be Altitude the crown jewel in The Staple Singers' treasure trove of great music.

  • Album Small
    Baby, What You Want Me To Do?

    Albert King, Steve Cropper & Pop Staples ...

  • Album Small
    A Wednesday In Your Garden

    The Staple Singers, from We'll Get Over

in this playlist.