Cleotha Staples, Founding Member of Staple Singers, Dead at 78

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Cleotha Staples, Founding Member of Staple Singers, Dead at 78

The Chicago Tribune reports that Cleotha Staples, a founding member of the legendary Staple Singers, has died at the age of 78.

According to the article, Staples had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for the past 12 years and, at the time of her passing Wednesday afternoon, had been under 24-hour care.

Born in 1934, Staples and her family—sisters Mavis and Yvonne, brother Pervis and father Roebuck “Pops”—eventually rose to pop prominence in the 1970s with such singles as “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There.”

“I credit Pops’ guitar and Cleedy’s voice with making our sound so different,” Mavis Staples is quoted as saying in the article. “Her high voice—Pops would take her to a minor key a lot. A lot of singers would try to sing like her. Gladys Knight’s background singer [in the Pips], William [Guest] would tell Cleedy, ‘I’m trying to sound like you.’ Her voice would just ring in your ear. It wasn’t harsh or hitting you hard, it was soothing. She gave us that country sound. The way we sang was the way Pops and his brothers and sisters would sing down in Mississippi. Those were the voices they would use to sing after dinner out on the gallery.”

Staples is survived by sisters Mavis and Yvonne and brother Pervis.