NPR logo A Wry Ode to a Singer's Indispensability

A Wry Ode to a Singer's Indispensability

Able Mable

  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Mable John

With her tart, no-nonsense voice, Mable John recorded singles for the Stax label throughout the '60s. hide caption

toggle caption

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Able Mable"
  • Artist: Mable John
  • CD: The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968
  • Genre: Soul

With her tart, no-nonsense voice, Mable John deserved to be a star like her brother Willie, who sang "Fever" before Peggy Lee but landed in jail after he allegedly stabbed a man. But Mable John never quite made it, though it sure wasn't because of her singing. Case in point: "Able Mable," featured in the landmark Stax-Volt: The Complete Singles (1959-1968), a nine-disc set that just became available in full on digital music providers.

"Able Mable," which John co-wrote in 1968, was her true-life nickname — and it's an honest-to-goodness gem. The minor key, the slinky horn riffs and the minimalist piano punctuation give it an edgy groove, while the lyric functions as a wry ode to female indispensability. John could "take a complication, make it a simple situation," as well as trim hair, mend clothes and zero in on a man's weak spot.

Now a pastor and a gospel singer, Mable John recorded other singles on the Stax collection throughout the '60s — including a song with one of the most horrific titles in the history of pop music, "Don't Hit Me No More." But of all her recordings, none sound more powerful, or more able, than this one.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Purchase Featured Music

The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968
Various Artists

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.