Happy Birthday to the gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples, who turns 80 years old today. Born in Chicago, she started singing with her family’s band The Staple Singers as a young girl, and her deep-throated voice catapulted the group to the top of the charts eight times between 1971 and 1975, with songs like I’ll Take You There, Let’s Do It Again, and Respect Yourself.
Her father “Pops’’ was close friends with Martin Luther King, Jr., so the singers marched alongside him while providing the spiritual soundtrack to the civil rights movement.
Mavis worked with Prince on two of her 16 solo albums—Time Waits for No One in 1989, and 1993’s The Voice—and she’s toured with good friend Bob Dylan, and collaborated with dozens of other musical legends from Ray Charles to Arcade Fire. That’s also her voice singing the theme song on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
The Grammy-winning Rock-Hall-of-Famer celebrated her 80th birthday recently, taking the mic at the Apollo Theater—with David Byrne and Norah Jones—63 years after first appearing on its stage as a teenager. She has no plans of retiring because she absolutely loves performing. WATCH a video about her birthday… (1939)
– 2007 photo by Jalylah Burrell, CC license
NOTE: If you’re outside the US, watch the video on the CBS website here.
MORE Good News on this Day:
- Today is Tesla Day, in celebration of the Serbian-born inventor, physicist, engineer, and futurist, Nikola Tesla, who was born on this day and whose theories and work on the use of electricity, wireless broadcast, and alternating current (AC) is today renown (1856–1943)
- Armistice talks aimed at ending the Korean conflict began at Kaesong (1951)
- Coca-Cola bowed to consumer pressure against New Coke and canceled it (1985)
- The first elected President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, began his 5-year term (1991)
- The South African cricket team was readmitted into the International Cricket Council following the end of Apartheid (1991)
- Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was freed after nearly six years of house arrest in Yangon, Myanmar (1995)
And, on this day in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune was born to former slaves in South Carolina. She realized as a child, the importance of learning to read and set her sights on becoming a teacher for her family and other black children.
In her 20s, she rented a small house, constructed benches and desks from discarded crates, made ink from elderberries, and opened a rigorous training school for girls in Daytona, Florida. Bethune also courted wealthy white benefactors like John D. Rockefeller to grow her school. In 1931, it became the Bethune-Cookman College. Later, Bethune became a close adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt and the only black woman present at the founding of the UN. So numerous were her awards, accolades and accomplishments that she has been called one of America’s greatest women, with “one of the most dramatic careers ever enacted at any time upon the stage of human activity.”
Bethune wrote later about opening her schoolroom with just $1.50, “I considered cash money as the smallest part of my resources. I had faith in a loving God, faith in myself, and a desire to serve.” She died in 1955. (CHECK out these Mary McLeod Bethune books.)
And, on this day in 1973, The Bahamas became a fully independent nation after 344 years of colonial British rule. The archipelago consists of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, and is located north of Cuba and southeast of Florida.
With Nassau its capital, the country still retains an allegiance to the British Queen as its head of state and is the third richest country in the Americas (following the United States and Canada), with an economy based on tourism and finance.
Long before Britain’s House of Lords voted to bestow independence to the Bahamas, slavery there had been abolished. After the ban in 1834, the Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves. The Royal Navy resettled Africans there who were liberated from illegal slave ships and other ships that reached the islands due to weather… Learn about how the reefs were formed, and enjoy another great photo.