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The Staple Singers: “Respect Yourself” and “Why Am I Treated So Bad?”

I had chosen the music for this post on the Staple Singers and was looking for background material without being aware of the sad news that Cleotha Staple, the oldest of the singing sisters, died on February 21 at age 78. Here is part of The New York Times’ obit:

The Staple Singers were formed in Chicago when the Mississippi-born singer and guitarist Roebuck Staples, better known as Pops, began teaching gospel songs to his children, Cleotha, Pervis, Yvonne, Mavis and Cynthia, to keep them entertained in the evenings. Mr. Staples and all his children except Cynthia began performing professionally and recording after singing together in church in 1948. (Continue Reading…)

“Pops” Staples died thirteen years ago. Here is the start of the family band’s profile at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame site, into which the family was inducted in 1999. They were presented by Lauryn Hill:

The Staple Singers have been called “God’s greatest hitmakers.” Steeped in the music of the church, this singing family from Mississippi crossed into the pop mainstream without compromising their gospel roots. Fronted by patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the Staple Singers have left an imprint of soulful voices, social activism, religious conviction and danceable “message music” across the decades since the release of “Uncloudy Day” in 1956. The clan’s musical signatures have been Pops Staples’ gospel-based songwriting and bluesy guitar, Mavis Staples’ rich, raspy vocals and the supple, ringing harmonies of Cleotha and Yvonne Staples. All three women are the daughters of Pops and Oceola Staples. Until 1969, son Pervis also belonged to the group, which has been configured as a quartet for more than half a century, with Pops and Mavis joined by Cleotha, Yvonne and/or Pervis. (Continue Reading…)

Finally, here is the clip of The Band and the Staple Singers performing The Weight in The Last Waltz. Pops and Mavis are featured. It’s a highlight of the movie, which is saying a lot.