Yvonne Staples, Member and Manager of the Staple Singers, Dies at 80
By LIAM STACKAPRIL 10, 2018
From left, Pops, Cleo, Yvonne and Mavis Staples performed in the 1970s. Courtesy of the Staples family
Yvonne Staples, who provided background vocals for her family’s hit-making pop and soul group, the Staple Singers, while taking the lead in managing its business affairs, died on Tuesday at her home in Chicago. She was 80.
The cause was colon cancer, said Bill Carpenter, a family friend.
Ms. Staples began singing with her family’s act in 1971 and performed on some of their biggest hits, including “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There.”
“She was very content in that role,” said Mr. Carpenter, the author of “Uncloudy Day: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia.” “She had no desire to be a front singer, even though people in the family told her she had a great voice.”
Ms. Staples was born in Chicago on Oct. 23, 1937, to Oceola and Roebuck Staples, who was known as Pops.
Her father formed the Staple Singers with his children Pervis, Mavis and Cleotha in 1948. They performed in churches in and around Chicago, toured the South and became active in the civil rights movement, traveling with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Yvonne Staples joined the group in 1971, when Pervis left for military service. The group, whose music blended gospel, soul and pop, had a string of hit songs in the 1970s. “Respect Yourself” reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts in 1971, “I’ll Take You There reached No. 1 in 1972, and “Let’s Do It Again” was a No. 1 hit in 1975.
The Staple Singers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York in 1999. From left were Pervis, Cleotha, Pops, Mavis and Yvonne Staples. Albert Ferreira/Associated Press
“On all the big hit records, Yvonne did the background vocals” in addition to acting as the group’s business manager, Mr. Carpenter said.
When her sister Mavis began a solo career in the 1980s, Yvonne performed the same double duty for her, singing background vocals and managing her tours until just a few years ago. At her death she was “pretty much retired,” Mr. Carpenter said.
The Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and received a lifetime achievement award at the 2005 Grammy Awards. They also received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award.
Roebuck Staples died in 2000and Cleotha Staples in 2013.
Yvonne Staples is survived by her brother and her sister Mavis.