I’ll Take You There | Greg Kot

The cover of Kot's I'll Take You ThereFull disclosure: I didn’t buy this book for Mavis’ sake. Other than the Jeff Tweedy penned, “You’re Not Alone,” I knew nothing of the Staples cannon. I bought this book because of the biographer.

Greg Kot’s understanding of music is immense. I’ve discovered a lot of music over the years through his “Sound Opinions” podcast (co-hosted with Jim DeRogatis). I’ve also enjoyed his Wilco biography, Learning How to Die and his commentary on the state of the music industry, Ripped.

I’ll Take You There was everything I had expected. Kot’s encyclopedic knowledge of music is on full display as he traces the evolution of Mavis Staples from her father’s early days in the South to the launch of the Staple Singers in Chicago to the later years with Jeff Tweedy.

While music is the main thread of the narrative, Kot dips richly into the history of racial discrimination and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

This biography has inspired me to delve into the music of the Staple Singers. I’ve learned that songs like “I’ll Take You There” and “Let’s Do It Again” just scratch the surface of their ability. In Pops staples, I’ve found the dark tremolo-soaked guitar tone I’ve always been trying to achieve.

The Staple Singers are an important piece of the history of Gospel music. Kot handles their story with grace.

—Greg Kot, I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, The Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway (New York: Scribner, 2014).

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