The Origin of Shamone - Mavis Staples Claims Credit
This Sunday, the Washington Post will feature a spread on The Staple Singers in an interview with their most famous lead soloist, Mavis Staples. Besides here legendary work with the Staple Singers, she has also performed with Prince, Bob Dylan, and Wilco. In the interview, she offered this comment about Michael Jackson and the word "shamone".
On her influence on Micheal Jackson and the origin of "shamone": My mother called me one day. She said, “Mavis, this little Michael Jackson done stole your word!” I said, "What?” She said, "Turn on channel two." And he was [on television, singing the song "Bad."]: “I’m bad, you know it, shamone, shamone.” See, I said "shamone" in “I'll Take You There.” It’s just a word I made up! Instead of saying "come on," I said "SHA-mone." You know, trying to be slick. And he picked up on it. And it made me feel so good. Some disc jockeys would ask me, "Mavis, has Michael paid you any money for 'shamone'?" I said, "No, he hasn’t paid me one red cent. But it’s alright."
I decided to do a little research on this, as my memories that far back in time have grown somewhat dim. I can tell you there is nary a sign of "shamone" in the original recording of "I'll Take You There" which was released in 1972. You be the judge.
But if you listen to some live performances, there is a hint of "shamone" there. Listen closely to this, right around
Let me start out by saying that I love Mavis. I do not doubt here words. But I will offer an example from another field as a teaching moment. Once upon a time there was a young man named Bill Gates who worked for IBM. When he left his employment there, I am told he asked and was given permission to take several ideas with him that had been on the drawing board at IBM and were thought to be worthless. He continued to work with and develop those plans and eventually came up with his own billion dollar company. The same with "shamone". If Mavis created the word "shamone", she did not give it the proper emphasis that it deserved. She was a bit like IBM. Michael intuitively recognized "shamone" for the gem that it was and gave it a proper showcase. If he didn't create it, he certainly made it his own.
Submitted for your consideration with L.O.V.E.,