Mavis Staples on Aretha Franklin: 'She Was a Regular Person Who Just Happened to Be Very Talented'

James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Aretha Franklin poses for a portrait circa 1964 in New York.

The Staples family home in Chicago hosted many great entertainers in the '60s and '70s: Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles — and often Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at age 76 from pancreatic cancer.

“My memories of having Aretha around the house is that she would get upset that we didn’t have a piano," Mavis Staples tells Billboard over email. "And she was a piano lady. I told her, ‘Well, Aretha, we have plenty of guitars.’ And she would say, ‘Mavis, get out of my face -- you know I don’t play no guitar!’ It was just a fun time. She always had stories, and we always wanted to hear them.”

The singers later collaborated on Franklin’s 1987 gospel album, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. “That was one of the best experiences of my life,” she says. “I had always wanted to sing with Re, and that was the time we did. It was at her father’s church, and it was just a beautiful experience. We did ‘Oh Happy Day,’ and two others that didn't come out. I think they still have them on the shelf somewhere, and hopefully they'll release them.”

Despite Franklin's legendary status in the music world, Staples remembers Franklin as “just everyday people like everyone else.”

“She liked soul food -- greens and cornbread,” Staples says. “She was a regular person who just happened to very talented.”