The Rant 


First off, I have just two words for you: Mavis Staples.

Yes, all of you young hipsters out there with your woven caps and baggy jeans and ripped T-shirts and cool glasses and groovy ways and vegan diets and trust funds that you are hesitant to talk about. Yes, you. I love you all. But heed these two words: Mavis Staples.

Mavis Staples is coming to Minglewood Hall in Midtown Memphis on May 27th, and I want you all to be there. For one night, forget about your hip indie alt country rock folk reggae music and set about to see and hear this woman do her thing. I promise you won't regret it.

Just in case you don't know, Mavis Staples is American music royalty. She and her family began as gospel singers, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and recorded the soundtrack to the civil rights movement in the United States, made their way to Memphis, changed the world with the music they recorded at Stax Records, and became icons in their own time on many levels. Mavis sang at the presidential inaugurations of John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. She has recorded with everyone from the Band to Pink Floyd, and, for heaven's sake, she dated Bob Dylan and he wanted her to marry him. Now, do I have your undivided attention?

Since those glory days, when people like the Staple Singers used music as a way to help make bad things get better, Mavis, as a solo artist, has done what hardly no other American musical artist has managed to do: At 71 years old — yes, 71, and beautiful as ever — she has recaptured the hearts of millions of people with a career that seems like it is just starting, and she is still singing songs that make bad things get better. Her latest foray into the recording studio was with Wilco lead man Jeff Tweedy. What other artist her age and stature and experience has even thought about doing anything that cool and unexpected? Not many.

Mavis wowed the crowd in December at the 33rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors singing a fabulous rendition of the Beatles' "Let It Be" to Paul McCartney, who was being honored and sitting in the audience with Barack and Michelle Obama, who were visibly blown away by her. And just last month, she received a Grammy for Best Americana Album for her Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone LP. She beat out co-nominees Roseanne Cash, Los Lobos, Willie Nelson, and Robert Plant, who, just in case you might not know right off the bat, founded Led Zeppelin. Need I write much more?

So, yes. Be young and hip and beautiful and sweet and adorable like so many of you are. But do yourself a favor and experience this thing of substance in a world where that's kind of a lost commodity, especially in the entertainment business. Go see Mavis Staples. If you don't love her, come tell me all about it over some tofu.

Ah, and speaking of young hipsters and tofu, I guess this is where I get to voice more of my getting older frustration.

I have been trying to find a really outlandishly delicious restaurant meal in Memphis and I have not had much luck. I haven't been everywhere, of course, but so far no luck. Just the other day I went to a very hip and trendy restaurant. I was excited. I felt hip. I felt trendy. I felt very Project Green Fork-ish. I ordered what I thought was going to be an exceptionally creative salad — according to the menu description, at least. I have never tasted such a murderous assault on plant foods in my life. Had I been there to write about this restaurant, I wouldn't have done it. I can't even bring myself to name the restaurant. It was something I want to put behind me, kind of like the 1980s. It wasn't pretty.

But what does this have to do with you? Your blogs, that's what. I've been trying to read the blogs and social network writings of your generation in regard to food and restaurants and the like, and I gotta tell you that you have some work to do. Do a little homework if you are going to pen things that are out there for the world to read and that have the potential to really affect people's livelihoods. Don't set the bar too low and give restaurants a free pass just because they use a couple of sprigs of locally grown herbs, but also don't diss them if you don't know what you're talking about.

I read one the other day about a restaurant I've wanted to try. The reviews were varied, but the one cohesive theme was that the service wasn't fast enough. In other words, you weren't getting what you wanted when you wanted it. But your impatience wasn't the problem. The problem was that you were complaining about not "receiving" your food fast enough. Receiving? You don't "receive" food. You "receive" guests and shipments and communion, and, in some cases, gifts. You don't "receive" grits. They just come to the table.

But it's a minor quibble. I do love you all and hope you will go see Mavis Staples. I know she'll be happy to receive you, and she will be well received.

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