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By the late 1960s, family-made R&B group The Staple Singers were attuned to the hastily changing times, with an evolving sound and socially conscious message to match. Led by father “Pops” Staples, with his children Mavis, Cleotha and Pervis to support, the group performed two nights at the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1968. The Staple Singers had just signed to the Memphis-based label Stax, and would release two albums that year, Soul Folk in Action and We’ll Get Over, which showcased their changing style, at this point a kind of vocally charged soul-folk hybrid.
Take, for example, this unique arrangement of Buffalo Springfield’s iconic “For What It’s Worth,” which the Staples released as a single the previous year as they looked to widen to a more mainstream, rock-partial audience. The performance includes a number of classic folk numbers like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?,” as well as several gospel and blues songs including “Freedom Highway,” “Help Me Jesus” and “Move Along Train,” on which Mavis Staples’s deep contralto vocals shine. Listen to The Staples Singers perform “For What It’s Worth” and “Freedom Highway” on this date in 1968.