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Grammy Award Winner Mavis Staples Receives Woody Guthrie Award
By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw (Contributing Writer)
Published August 12, 2015
Singer Mavis Staples accepts award at The Woody Guthrie Center Presents Woody Guthrie Prize Honoring Mavis Staples at The GRAMMY Museum on July 22 in Los Angeles.  (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage)

Singer Mavis Staples accepts award at The Woody Guthrie Center Presents Woody Guthrie Prize Honoring Mavis Staples at The GRAMMY Museum on July 22 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage)

Grammy award-winning artist Mavis Staples received the second annual Woody Guthrie Award at the Grammy Museum on July 22.

Given to an artist that “best exemplifies the spirit and life of Woody Guthrie,” the award celebrates those who “speak for the less fortunate through music, film, literature, dance, or other arts,” said Deanna McCloud, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Center located in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A beloved member of the award-winning gospel group, the Staple Singers, Mavis Staples was honored for their work during the Civil Rights movement.


“Mavis Staples and the Staples Singers were fighters for civil rights and racial equality. They were the musical voices of the Civil Rights Movement. It was their music that helped keep people together during that time,” said Bob Santelli, executive director of the Grammy® Museum.

Echoing those sentiments, McCloud said, “Music can be a great tool for social injustice. We [the Woody Guthrie Center] want to change lives and change the world. Mavis Staples’ strong, beautiful voice energized a movement that changed our world.”

Mavis Staples expressed her gratitude saying, “It is an honor to receive this award because the Staple Singers loved the music of Woody Guthrie,” as she sang a few bars of “This Land Is Your Land,” a Guthrie penned tune that remains one of the most beloved songs in this country.

Staples regaled the audience with family stories recalling how her father, “Pops,” would take her mother’s sweet potato pies to disc jockeys and they would joke and say, “The Staples Singers don’t need no payola, they have pie-ola.”

It was her father who felt a deep connection with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and brought the Staple Singers into the Civil Rights Movement, saying “Listen ya’ll, if Dr. King can preach it, we can sing it,” Staples said.

To the delight of the audience, Staples revealed a little known fact about her famous father telling the audience that, “Pops” Staples, whose given name is Roebuck, “got that name because of the Sears and Roebuck catalog.


“My grandparents had so many children that by the time daddy came along, they had run out of names. The Sears & Roebuck catalog was a staple in their home, so daddy got the name Roebuck and one of his brothers got the name Sears.” Staples closed out the night singing a melody of Staples Singers hits, including the 1972 Grammy® winning “I’ll Take You There.”

“You know the Church didn’t like that song. They said it was the devil’s music. I said the devil ain’t got no music, all music is God’s music,” Staples said.

For more information on Mavis Staples, visit

Categories: Religion
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