Yvonne Staples of the Legendary Staple Singers Dies at 80

Playing Yvonne Staples, a "Staple" in Soul Music, Dies at 80

Yvonne Staples, whose baritone harmonies helped propel the Staple Singers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with hits such as "Respect Yourself," has died in Chicago after battling colon cancer. She was 80. 

She was the middle child of Pops and Oceola Staples. With her sisters, Mavis and Cleotha, and their guitarist father, the group rose up the music charts with "I'll Take You There" and "Heavy Makes You Happy."

The Staple Singers began in the 1940s as gospel quartet featuring Mavis, Cleotha and their brother Pervis. They performed in churches and toured the south with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a good friend of Mississippi-born Roebuck "Pops" Staples.

Yvonne joined the group in 1971 when Pervis left to join the military. She provided background vocals on her family's hit records, bolstering her sister, Mavis, who often sang lead. 

Yvonne also acted as her family's business manager and continued in that capacity during Mavis' solo tours. She was also her sister's constant companion on the road, but had spent the past few years at home. Mavis, 78, is currently on tour to promote her latest album, "If All I Was Was Black."

The family did not make a statement Wednesday.

The Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and received a lifetime achievement award at the 2005 Grammys.

The group's signature gospel/blues/rock sound drew the admiration of many professional musicians including Bob Dylan, who in the 1960s had a crush on Mavis, she said. Their Deep South roots also drew the respect of Martin Scorsese and The Band, landing the family a spot in the 1978 concert classic "The Last Waltz," singing "The Weight" with Band members Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson.

Pops Staples died in 2000 and Cleotha died in 2013. She is survived by Pervis and Mavis.

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