fbpx → Skip to main content
The Pan African Music Magazine
©2024 PAM Magazine - Design by Trafik - Site by Moonshine - All rights reserved. IDOL MEDIA, a division of IDOL Group.
Link successfully copied
Could not copy link

"Respect Yourself": 1971 Staple Singers anthem

Craft Recordings has just released a new lyric video for the track “Respect Yourself,” by legendary soul band The Staple Singers. A civil rights anthem whose lyrics resonate especially on American election day.

These icons of Chicago soul seem particularly relevant on this special day. With their 1971 title “Respect Yourself,” the Staple Singers spread a pacifist message of tolerance, self-respect and, above all, empowerment. It channelled a strong discourse that was part of the Civil Rights Movement and which today echoes in the contemporary images of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. This mix of archive footage and recent images shows to what extent history repeats itself. The lyrics sung by Mavis Staples are clearly prophetic, describing the grim times we are going through with strange accuracy: “Keep talkin’ about the president, won’t stop air pollution / Put your hand on your mouth when you cough, that’ll help the solution.”

Pops, Cleotha, Yvonne and Mavis Staples © Stax Archives

The track, which originally appeared on the Staple Singers’ 1972 album Be Altitude, has become the family band’s biggest hit to date – ranking second on the Billboard Soul chart and twelfth in the Hot 100. Written by Luther Ingram and Mack Rice, this powerful piece featured members of the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the Memphis Horns. Their lyrics spread messages in favour of racial equality with strong political content, certainly inspired by the events of the time, which took place against the backdrop of social and political unrest culminating in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis.

Cleotha, Yvonne and Mavis Staples © Stax Archives

A 7-CD box set accompanies the release of the clip celebrating the Staple Singers and their legendary production period at Stax Records from 1968-1974. The collection includes many of Staples’ most iconic recordings, including “I’ll Take You There,” “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me),” “Long Walk to D.C.,” and, of course, “Respect Yourself.” In the liner notes, Levon Williams and Dr. Langston Wilkins write that “Long Walk to D.C.” and “The Ghetto” are two very significant tracks from the torment of the era, because they “Truly tapped into the experiences and emotions of Black America at the close of the ’60s. The former is a tribute to the 1963 March on Washington told from the perspective of a poor yet hopeful African American person willing to use their last dimes to make it to the rally … Conversely, the somber and haunting ‘The Ghetto’ takes listeners deep into the isolation and despair of inner-city life.” 

The 7-CD box set Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection will be released on November 13 via Craf Recordings and is available for pre-order here.

Listen to The Staple Singers in our Songs of the Week playlist on Spotify and Deezer.