Song Spotlight: “Respect Yourself”

Photo of three black women in matching checkered dresses and two black men in suits - the Staple Singers at their height of popularity - Song Spotlight genre label reads "Soul/Rock"
  • Mood: Confident
  • Themes: Respect, Social Activism Music, Family Bands
  • Tempo: Moderate
  • Genre/Style: Soul, Rock

The Staple Singers were a family band, featuring the Staples family, and founded by Roebuck “Pop” Staples, who was the father of the family. They got their early start in Chicago singing at church, and they quickly rose to prominence, singing at civil rights rallies alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Their songs are widely recognized as an influential part of the soul genre, and they were a leading music group in the social activism of the 60s and beyond. 

The Staple Singers began to develop a mainstream appealing sound in the early seventies. Their producer at the time, Al Bell, began moving the group towards a funk and soul sound. They quickly got two hits, with “Heavy Makes You Happy” and “Respect Yourself” in 1971.

The theme of “Respect Yourself” is empowerment, and it spoke to a wide array of listeners, especially those who had followed them during their rise to popularity in the 1960s civil rights movement. 

Here are some of the lyrics:

Respect yourself, respect yourself, 

Respect yourself, respect yourself

If you don’t respect yourself

Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na

Respect yourself, respect yourself, 

respect yourself, respect yourself

This is a great song to use in a 1:1 setting or in a group, and it would go well with a collection of songs about respect, social activism, or other tunes from the Staple Singers. It can be used as a transition into group discussion, an opportunity for musical engagement, movement and more. 

Try This:

Theme: This song would fit well into a collection of songs about respect, social activism, or other tunes from the Staple Singers. Other complementary songs may include “RESPECT,” “Freedom Highway,” and “Tomorrow.”

Encourage the group to discuss what it means to respect yourself. Brainstorm ways that respect builds community or what makes listeners feel respected. 

Discuss what other singers were popular during the civil rights movement and artists who are considered social activist songwriters. Listen to a few of their songs. 

Watch the lyric video that accompanies this song.  

Movement: Try out seated dance moves or rhythmic movements along with the song. 

Sing along with the repeated phrase in the song “respect yourself.”

For more song spotlights, visit our Song Spotlights page.

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