I’ll Take You There
The Staple Singers
Writer(s): Al Bell (see lyrics here)
Released: February 1972
First Charted: April 1, 1972
Peak: 11 US, 12 CB, 4 GR, 11 HR, 14 RB, 30 UK, 21 CN, 6 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 27.7 video, 138.41 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“The Staple Singers’ ‘I’ll Take You There’ never mentions any particular god, or any set of beliefs. It only imagines a place where things are better. But it’s still hard to hear it as anything other than a gospel song – one of the purest and most direct that ever went to #1 in America.” SG Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the family patriarch, said, “We always tried to do material that was uplifting.” FB
The song “came out while the Civil Rights struggle was still raging…And yet it imagines a time, or a place, where things might get better…There’s a beautiful audacity in that image — the same beautiful audacity that has powered gospel music since before the advent of recorded sound. And while we’re still not there, we can hear some version of that imagined utopia in that groove.” SG Mavis Staples, who sings lead on “Take You There,” said, “When we heard Dr. Martin Luther King preach, we said, ‘If he can preach this, we can sing it.’” SF
Pops grew up in the Mississippi Delta playing with blues greats including Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson. He moved to Chicago during the depression and started singing with his family at his brother’s church in 1948. Four years later, they signed to their first record company as the Staple Singers. In 1968, Al Bell signed them to Stax. He was credited with “I’ll Take You There.” He said the song came to him in his father’s back yard after his brother’s funeral, but Mavis said they co-wrote the lyrics in her apartment. She was furious about not getting credited, which partially led to the group departing Stax in 1975. SG
The song “might be the first reggae-influenced single to make it to #1 in America.” SG It takes from a 1969 reggae instrumental called “The Liquidator.” Bell played it for the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who claimed they didn’t know it was someone else’s record. They thought it was a demo Bell recorded. SG Rolling Stone’s David Fricke described “I’ll Take You There as the “epitome of the Muscle Shoals Sound.” WK
It is also “a great showcase for Mavis,” SG who mostly ad-libs the call-and-response vocals. “She’s casual and commanding, whooping and grunting but always staying in the pocket. Sometimes, she takes over, bringing the full force of her voice. Sometimes, she just sits back and enjoys what’s happening.” SG
First posted 1/23/2023.