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Profile: Staple Singers


Profile: Staple Singers
source: pricegrabber.com


1948 (Chicago, IL)


Soul, Gospel, R&B, Folk, Blues

Principal Members:

  • "Pops" Staples (born Roebuck Staples, December 28, 1915, Winona, MS; died December 19, 2000, Chicago, IL): guitar, vocals
  • Mavis Staples (born July 10, 1939, Chicago, IL): lead vocals
  • Pervis Staples (born November 6, 1935, Chicago, IL): vocals
  • Cleotha Staples (born April 11, 1934, Drew, MS): vocals
  • Yvonne Staples (born October 23, 1938, Chicago, IL): vocals

Contributions to music:

  • The most famous examples of gospel crossing over into soul music
  • Leader "Pops" Staples was considered one of the great blues guitarists
  • Lead singer Mavis Staples is gospel's greatest diva and one of soul's greatest recognized voices
  • Provided a more conservative, morality-based counterpoint to the activism of many of their contemporaries
  • Went a long way towards reviving the Stax label in the early Seventies
  • Concocted a brand of sensual yet spiritual groove that has yet to be equaled

Early years:

The history of the Staple Singers actually goes back a couple of generations before their greatest success, when patriarch Roebuck Staples, a Delta bluesman who learned guitar from legend Charley Patton, traveled, as so many of his generation did, from Mississippi to Chicago in 1935 to escape the poverty and oppression of the Jim Crow South. Once in the Windy City, he began working odd laborer's jobs while exploring music on the side, and by 1948, he'd assembled his family into a gospel singing group with himself on guitar. Recording for the local United label, they soon became a sensation.


In 1956, the Staple Singers -- minus the natural "s" of their last name, so as to ease pronunciation -- broke nationally with their hit "Uncloudy Day," a "Pops" original that featured not only his Delta guitar but socially conscious lyrics, trademarks that would become staples (no pun intended) of the band's later sound. Inspired by Martin Luther King, the group solidified their protest base with folk and rock covers, until Stax picked them up in 1969. Working with producer Al Bell, they transformed into a funk-soul outfit, which began paying dividends with the (surprisingly conservative) 1971 hit "Respect Yourself."

Later years:

The Staples ruled the R&B charts through the mid-Seventies, even after moving from Stax to Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label, with breakout star Mavis Staples helping to add a layer of seductive soul on tracks like "Let's Do It Again" and Pops' Delta experience helping them to get over to rural "country-soul" fans. By the late Seventies, however, disco had all but destroyed soul on the charts, and the Staples returned (mostly) to their gospel and blues roots. Pops died of a heart attack in 2000; Mavis, whose reputation as an R&b powerhouse only continues to grow with each passing year, still tours and records today.

Other facts:

  • Son Purvis left the group in 1969, to be replaced by his sister, Yvonne
  • The Staples were the first African-American group to record a Bob Dylan song ("Blowin' In The Wind," 1963)
  • The song "Why Am I Treated So Bad" was reportedly Dr. Martin Luther King's favorite
  • The Staples sing on The Band's classic "The Weight" in the film The Last Waltz
  • Jazz legend George Benson played with the Staples before Pops got him a deal as a solo act
  • Bruce Willis infamously covered "Respect Yourself" and had a Top Ten hit with it for his 1987 project The Return Of Bruno
  • The groove of "I'll Take You There" has been sampled by many hip-hop artists


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1999, 2002)
  • GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award (2005)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:

"I'll Take You There" (1972)
"Let's Do It Again" (1975)


"I'll Take You There" (1972)
"If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" (1973)
"Let's Do It Again" (1975)

Top 10 hits:

"If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)"(1973)


"Respect Yourself" (1971)
"Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)" (1971)
"This World" (1972)
"Oh La De Da" (1973)
"Touch A Hand, Make A Friend" (1974)
"City In The Sky" (1974)


"Slippery People" (1984)

#1 albums:

Let's Do It Again (1975)

Top 10 albums:

The Staple Swingers (1971)
Bealtitude: Respect Yourself (1972)

Other important recordings: "Uncloudy Day," "For What It's Worth," "Love Is Plentiful," "You've Got To Earn It," "Be What You Are," "Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas," "My Main Man," "Love Me, Love Me, Love Me," "Sweeter Than The Sweet," "This Is Our Night," "The Weight," "We'll Get Over," "This Old Town (People In This Town)," "Hammer And Nails," "Nobody's Fault But Mine," "Too Close," "Won't You Sit Down (Sit Down Servant)," "I Wish I Had Answered," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Swing Low," "This May Be The Last Time," "Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw," "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)," "It's Been A Change," "Will The Circle Be Unbroken," "The Ghetto," "Long Walk To D.C.," "God Bless The Children," "The Gardener," "When Will We Be Paid For The Work We Did," "Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas," "John Henry," "You're Gonna Make Me Cry," "Solon Bushi," "I Have Learned To Do Without You," "Trying Times," "The Only Time You Ever Say You Love Me," "I Got To Be Myself," "Trippin' On Your Love," "New Orleans," "I Honestly Love You," "H-A-T-E (Don't Live Here Any More)"
Covered by: Prince, General Public, Blackgirl, Joe Cocker, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Deltones, Johnny Otis, Carla Thomas, Kirk Whalum, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Otis Clay, Etta James, James Last, Herbie Mann, Mighty Sam McClain, Aaron Neville, Robert Palmer, The Selecter, Johnnie Taylor, The Temptations, Third World, The Weather Girls, Bruce Willis
Appears in the movies: "Wattstax" (1973), "The Klansman" (1974), "The Last Waltz" (1978)

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