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Passings: Yvonne Staples of the Staple Singers (1939 - 2018)

Mavis, Pops, Cleotha & Mavis Staples
by VVN Music

Yvonne Staples, one of the five members of the gospel and R&B greats The Staple Singers, has died at her home in South Shore, IL at the age of 80.

Roebuck "Pops" Staples brought his family from Mississippi to Chicago so that he could work in the steel and meat industries. In 1948, he started singing with his children Cleotha, Pervis and Mavis at Chicago-area churches and, in 1952, they signed their first contract.

The group initially recorded a number of gospel singles for United Records before settling with Vee-Jay who released their first album, Uncloudy Day, in 1959.  Bob Dylan has noted that the album was a major influence on him as he started to develop his musical sound.

In 1961, they moved to Epic, releasing numerous albums including Freedom Highway (1965) which included the title song which became a civil rights anthem.  The group also started to branch out into a sound that appealed more to mainstream audiences and brought them new fans.

The Staple Singers moved to Stax in 1967 where the would find their greatest success.  It was also during this time that Yvonne became a permanent part of the group, after having previously filled in for Pervis while he was in the service.

In early 1971, the Staples had their first major hit with "Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)" which went to 27 on the Hot 100 and 6 on the R&B charts.  It started a chain of popular tracks including "Respect Yourself" (1971 / #12 Pop / #2 R&B), "I'll Take You There" (1972 / #1 Pop / #1 R&B), "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" (1973 / #9 Pop / #1 R&B), "Touch a Hand Make a Friend" (1974 / #23 Pop / #3 R&B) and "Let's Do It Again" (1975 / #1 Pop / #1 R&B), the last of which was released on Curtis Mayfield's Curtom Records after Stax went bankrupt.

While that would be the end of their hit streak, the Staples kept in the forefront with appearances in the Band film The Last Waltz and getting to the Dance Chart top ten in 1984 with a cover of the Talking Heads' "Slippery People".

Yvonne and the Staples were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Gospel Hall of Fame this year along with receiving a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.