Livin' on a High Note is an album featuring songs written specifically for Mavis Staples by an assortment of artists. When Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards heard about the project, she eagerly joined it because, she told The New York Times, "The Staple Singers have always done music that is relevant, and unfortunately the same songs are still relevant today."
Mavis Staples discussed what she wanted with each prospective songwriter. "We probably talked for 15 minutes, and all of my suspicions about how to last long in this career, she proved them all to be correct," Garbus said. "As in be humble, be everyday people, be a human being. No need to cop an attitude, we're all human beings. She set me at ease right away."
This upbeat song, which moves from fear to activism is the track that Garbus came up with.
The lyrics to "Heartbreak Hotel" were written by a steel guitar player who was once a dishwasher repairman. He was inspired by a newspaper story about a man who killed himself and left behind a note saying only, "I walk a lonely street."