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Cleotha Staples, whose voice was a major part of Staples Singers hits like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” has died. She was 78-years-old.
The Chicago Tribune reports that she had been dealing with Alzheimer’s disease for the past 12 years. She was under 24-hour care at home. She died on Wednesday.
Staples was born into a musical family in 1934. Her father, Roebuck ‘Pop’ Staples, was a blues guitarist who moved to Chicago, where he worked to support the family. Staples’ siblings included Pervis, Yvonne, Mavis and Cynthia. In 1953, the group began recording in Chicago and touring around the country. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. included them at rallies, with Pop often singing “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)?”
Publicist and family friend Bill Carpenter told The Associated Press that Staples’ voice was the backbone of the group.
“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,” Carpenter, who wrote Uncloudy Day: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia, said.
The Staples Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and won a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2005. They reached the top of the charts with “I’ll Take You There” in 1972. Other hits include “Respect Yourself,” “If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)” and “Heavy Makes You Happy.”