South Shore, CHICAGO, IL – Mississippi native, Yvonne Staples, manager and backup singer for the powerhouse soul trio, The Staple Singers, has died. Born to Roebuck “Pops” and Osceola Staples in 1937, she was 80 years old at the time of her death.
Bill Carpenter, a family friend, confirmed Staples’s death, citing the cause as colon cancer. The family has declined to comment at this time, but the announcement was made by a representative of sister and Staples lead singer, Mavis.
The Staples Singers consisted of sisters Yvonne, Mavis (Lead Singer) and Cleotha, and their father Roebuck “Pops” Staples backing them up on bass. “Pops” died in 2000 just shy of his 86th birthday. Though a brother, Pervis, was an original member of the group, he joined the military and Yvonne stepped in to take his place. When asked about the “pressure” from their father to join the group in Pervis’ place, she once stated “Pressure? I didn’t feel any pressure. When Daddy asked us to do something, we did it. No questions asked.”
The Staples were amongst the longest-standing STAX recording groups in the history of soul, funk, pop, folk, gospel, and R&B music, and I have to say there was nothing like growing up back in the ’70s of the late 1900s and listening to Pops string it out on that bass guitar.
The Staples were featured in the documentaries “Wattstax” (1972) and “The Last Waltz” (1978).
Best known for their hits “Respect Yourself”, “I’ll Take You There,” “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me), and “Let’s Do It Again,” (Billboard’s Hot 100) the latter was the title of a 1975 hit movie along the line of “Blaxploitation” comedy which starred A-list actors, Bill Cosby, Sidney Poiter, and Calvin Lockhart, who played the Black community’s infamous “Biggie Smalls”.
As most Black singers and performers did back in the day, the Staples got their start singing in church.
Often at the right hand of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., they forged a series of message songs in the 1970s that helped shape a new African-American and Black consciousness. The Staple Singers, a backdrop refuge during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and a symbol of Black pride and achievement, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. They also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys in 2005.
They were signed to more than one label, including Epic records, but their hits initially came out of STAX down in Tennessee, a Black recording company, and that first singular hit was called “Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)” in 1971.
The Staples have a younger sister, Cynthia, who never performed with the family. It is reported that Yvonne was stricken with a cancer diagnosis only a few weeks prior to her death.
Rest in power, Yvonne Staples, and rest in peace. Say “Hello” to Pops and Mom for us.
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