WBEZ | Cleotha Staples http://www.wbez.org/tags/cleotha-staples Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Cleotha Staples of Staple Singers siblings dies http://www.wbez.org/news/cleotha-staples-staple-singers-siblings-dies-105699 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP942315268300.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In a family of vocalists, it was Cleotha Staples&#39; smooth and velvety voice that helped set apart the sound of the influential and best-selling gospel group The Staple Singers.</p><p>Staples, the eldest sister and member of the group her father Roebuck &quot;Pops&quot; Staples started in the 1940s, died Thursday at age 78. She was at her Chicago home and had been suffering from Alzheimer&#39;s disease for the past decade, said family friend and music publicist Bill Carpenter.</p><p>The group included sisters Pervis, Yvonne, Mavis and Cynthia, but Cleotha was the backbone, defining herself by being the &quot;strong, silent type,&quot; said Carpenter, author of &quot;Uncloudy Day: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia.&quot;</p><p>&quot;When she was young they used to call her granny because she acted like a granny in terms of being wise and always sure of the best thing to do,&quot; Carpenter said.</p><p>Mavis Staples credited her father&#39;s guitar and Cleotha&#39;s voice with creating the group&#39;s distinctive sound.</p><p>&quot;A lot of singers would try to sing like her,&quot; Mavis Staples said in a statement. &quot;Her voice would just ring in your ear. It wasn&#39;t harsh or hitting you hard, it was soothing. She gave us that country sound.&quot;</p><p>Staples, known as &quot;Cleedi,&quot; was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with her family in 1999 and received a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys in 2005. The Staple Singers gained a huge audience with their first No. 1 hit &quot;I&#39;ll Take You There&quot; in 1972 and followed with top 40 hits &quot;Respect Yourself,&quot; &#39;&#39;Heavy Makes You Happy,&quot; and &quot;If You&#39;re Ready (Come Go With Me).&quot;</p><p>The family&#39;s music career had its roots with Pops Staples, a manual laborer who strummed a $10 guitar while teaching his children gospel songs to keep them entertained in the evenings. They sang in church one Sunday morning in 1948, and three encores and a heavy church offering basket convinced Pops music was in the family&#39;s future.</p><p>The Staple Singers was born. Two decades later the group became an unlikely hit maker for the Stax label. The Staple Singers had a string of Top 40 hits with Stax in the late 1960s, earning them the nickname &quot;God&#39;s greatest hitmakers.&quot;</p><p>When the children were younger, it was Cleotha&#39;s high voice that influenced Pops Staples&#39; guitar playing and in turn influenced The Staple Singers sound, Carpenter said.</p><p>&quot;When Pops used to sit them in a circle and play music with them he was sort of feeding off of her voice,&quot; Carpenter said. &quot;It was high in a light way, sort of soothing and velvety so his guitar playing bounced off of that.&quot;</p><p>Cleotha Staples was born April 11, 1934, in Drew, Miss., the first child of Pops and his wife, Oceola. Two years later, the family moved to Chicago, where Pops worked a variety of jobs performing manual labor and Oceola worked at a hotel. Chicago also was where the family&#39;s four other children were born.</p><p>Pops and Mavis primarily took the lead on the group&#39;s vocals, but a 1969 recording of duets featured Cleotha&#39;s voice on the song &quot;It&#39;s Too Late,&quot; a bluesy ballad about a lost love.</p><p>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 at events at King&#39;s request. It was during that period that the family began recording protest songs, such as &quot;Freedom Highway,&quot; as well as gospel. The group even covered Bob Dylan&#39;s &quot;Blowin&#39; in the Wind.&quot;</p><p>At the end of her life, Cleotha Staples lived near her sisters Mavis and Yvonne on Chicago&#39;s South Side. Carpenter said the sisters were vigilant caretakers of Cleotha, just as she had been when the sisters were younger.</p><p>Mavis Staples said she plans to dedicate her second record with Wilco&#39;s Jeff Tweedy to Cleotha&#39;s memory.</p><p>&quot;But we will keep on,&quot; Mavis Staples said. &quot;Yvonne and I will continue singing to keep our father&#39;s legacy and our sister&#39;s legacy alive.&quot;</p></p> Fri, 22 Feb 2013 15:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cleotha-staples-staple-singers-siblings-dies-105699