When Joan Osborne recounts first meeting her idol backstage at Chicago’s House of Blues when she was going to see Bonnie Raitt play around the time of Osborne’s commercial success with the hit “What If God Were One of Us,” it’s hard for her to hide how much of a fangirl moment it was.
“I was on tour and had a night off and Bonnie Raitt was playing at the House of Blues. I went to see Bonnie, went backstage and Mavis Staples was sitting backstage with her,” Osborne explained. “You could have knocked me over with a feather—Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples…in the same room! I was just so thrilled to see Bonnie and to meet Mavis. Mavis just has this incredible warmth and radiance as a human being. And to be able to just sit with her and tell her how much I love her…it was great.”
Currently on tour with Staples, Osborne’s ulterior motive involves trying to coax her idol and friend into the studio, even if it’s to record one song. (Having produced The Holmes Brothers, Osborne wouldn’t be out of her element doing the same for Staples.) But allow the Kentucky native to spell out how much this tour with Mavis Staples means to Osborne and the kind of influence she’s had.
“I just love her so much. As a singer, she’s someone who has an amazing voice. When I was starting up, she was one of the people that I wanted to sound like. But then also, thinking about the music she’s made with her family and as a solo artist, the career she’s had and the incredible records she’s made that I’ve love so much, her family root being a part of the civil rights movement and being a part of that,” Osborne said. “Then I think about the pop hits they had in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and the beautiful songs that were so inclusive and presented such a joyful picture of how we could be as Americans and how we could reach out to each other and be this incredibly joyful and cohesive society…I think she’s had such an amazing career and she’s still doing it. She’s making these great records recently—the ones with Jeff Tweedy. I think she’s in the studio now. She’s not an oldies act. She’s still this vibrant artist is just inspiring in so many ways.”