Cleotha Staples, the oldest sibling of 1960s and '70s soul and gospel group The Staple Singers, has died. She was 78.
Staples died Thursday at her Chicago home after a 10-year decline due to Alzheimer’s disease, according to a family friend.
The family group The Staple Singers had hits such as Respect Yourself, I'll Take You There, If You're Ready (Come Go with Me) and Let's Do It Again. Although the family name was Staples, the group name was The Staple Singers.
Family patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples began the group by teaching his children gospel songs on a $10 guitar. The children, Cleotha, also known as "Cleedi," Pervis, Yvonne, Mavis and Cynthia formed a group that first sang in Chicago-area churches in 1948, and signed their first professional contract in 1952. Their recordings included On My Way to Heaven, Will the Circle be Unbroken and their signature hit Uncloudy Day.
In the 1960s, the group crossed over from gospel to a popular folk sound, signing with Epic Records and scoring hits with Why (Am I Treated So Bad) and For What It's Worth.
The family also became active in the civil rights movement after hearing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a sermon while they were on tour in Montgomery, Ala., in 1962. They went on to perform protest songs, such as Freedom Highway.
In 1968, they moved to the Stax label, the home of southern music stars like Otis Redding and Booker T. & the MGs, with whom they collaborated on Soul Folk in Action and We'll Get Over.
A new producer introduced them to a funkier sound, which resulted in the 1971 recording of Respect Yourself, a song that resonated with a young America being galvanized by the Civil Rights movement.
They had a No. 1 hit with I'll Take You There, featuring Cleotha Staples’ soprano voice. The Staple Singers later collaborated with The Band on recording The Weight in the seminal rock film The Last Waltz.
The group continued recording into the 1980s, including a cover of Talking Heads hit Slippery People.
Cleotha Staples was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Staple Singers in 1999 and received a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys in 2005.