MUSIC ICON: Mavis Staples is an American rhythm and blues and gospel singer, actress, and civil rights activist.
MUSIC ICON: Mavis Staples is an American rhythm and blues and gospel singer, actress, and civil rights activist. Myriam Santos

Mavis Staples brings her new music written by Ben Harper

LIVING legend and vocal powerhouse Mavis Staples has announced her 12th studio album, We Get By, featuring 11 tracks written and produced by Ben Harper.

Harper's conscious, expressive writing and thoughtful production captures Staples at this moment in time as she offers up love, hope and history during a politically divided era.

She said the progressive opening track Change is an example of the strength in the words she is belting.

"These songs are delivering such a strong message," Staples said.

"We truly need to make a change if we want this world to be better."

Collaborating with Harper for an album's worth of new music is part of a larger trend in Staples' work.

By the mid-1960s The Staple Singers, inspired by her father's close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr, became the spiritual and musical voices of the civil rights movement.

They covered contemporary pop hits with positive messages, including Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall.

An inductee of both the Blues and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Staples has collaborated with Prince, Bob Dylan, The Band, Curtis Mayfield, Nick Cave, Neko Case, Arcade Fire and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, just to name a few.

In 2018 she co-wrote and sang on Hozier's single Nina Cried Power.

In the 2015 documentary Mavis! she revealed that Bob Dylan once proposed to her, and she turned him down.

Although her first self-titled album was released in 1969, Staples won her first Grammy award in 2011 in the category for Best Americana Album for You Are Not Alone.

In her acceptance speech, a shocked and crying Staples said "This has been a long time coming".

We Get By will be released on May 10.

  • At Bluesfest Byron Bay on Thursday, April 18, 6.15pm; Saturday, April 20, 3.15pm; and Sunday, April 21. 6.45pm, all at Jambalaya stage.