The Staple Singers

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The Staple Singers
Staple Singers on Soul Train.jpg
The Staple Singers with Soul Train host Don Cornelius in 1974.
Background information
Origin Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Soul, gospel, blues, R&B, funk, pop
Years active 1948–1994
Labels United Records, Vee-Jay Records, Checker Records, Riverside Records, Epic Records, Stax Records, Columbia, Curtom, United Artists, Warner Bros.
Associated acts Curtis Mayfield, Steve Cropper, Booker T & the MG's The Ross Singers
Past members Roebuck "Pops" Staples
Cleotha Staples
Pervis Staples
Yvonne Staples
Mavis Staples

The Staple Singers were an American gospel, soul and R&B singing group. Roebuck "Pops" Staples (1914–2000), the patriarch of the family, formed the group with his children Cleotha (1934–2013), Pervis (b. 1935), Yvonne (b. 1936), and Mavis (b. 1939). They are best known for their 1970s hits "Respect Yourself", "I'll Take You There", "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)", and "Let's Do It Again", all of which (except "I'll Take You There") peaked on the Hot 100 less than a week away from Christmas Day.

While the family surname is "Staples", the group used the singular form for its name, "The Staple Singers".

History[edit]

The family began appearing in Chicago-area churches in 1948, and signed their first professional contract in 1952.[1] During their early career they recorded in an acoustic gospel-folk style with various labels: United Records, Vee-Jay Records (their "Uncloudy Day" and "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" were best sellers), Checker Records, Riverside Records, and then Epic Records in 1965.

It was on Epic that the Staple Singers began moving into mainstream pop markets, with "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)" and "For What It's Worth" (Stephen Stills) in 1967. In 1968, the Staple Singers signed to Stax Records and released two albums with Steve Cropper and Booker T & the MG'sSoul Folk in Action and We'll Get Over. By 1970 Al Bell had become producer, and, with Engineer Terry Manning, the family began recording at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and Memphis' Ardent Studios, moving in a more funk and soul direction.

The first Stax hit was "Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)" in early 1971. Their late 1971 recording of "Respect Yourself", written by Luther Ingram and Mack Rice, peaked at #2 on the R&B charts and #12 on the Hot 100. The song's theme of self-empowerment had universal appeal, released in the period immediately following the intense American civil rights movement of the 1960s. In 1972 "I'll Take You There" topped both the pop and R&B charts. In 1973 "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" reached #9 pop and #1 on the R&B chart.

After Stax's 1975 bankruptcy, the foursome signed to Curtis Mayfield's label, Curtom Records, and released "Let's Do It Again", produced by Mayfield; the song became their second #1 pop hit in the US and the album also. In 1976, they collaborated with The Band for their film The Last Waltz, performing on the song "The Weight" (which The Staple Singers had previously covered on their first Stax album). However, they were not able to regain their momentum, releasing only occasional minor hits. Their 1984 album Turning Point featured their final Top 40 hit, a cover of Talking Heads' "Slippery People" (which also reached the Top 5 on the Dance chart). In 1994, they again performed the song "The Weight" with Country music artist Marty Stuart for MCA Nashville's Rhythm, Country and Blues compilation, somewhat re-establishing an audience. The song "Respect Yourself" was used by Spike Lee in the soundtrack to his movie Crooklyn, made in 1994.

In 1999, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Pops Staples died of complications from a concussion suffered in December 2000. In 2005, the group was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Mavis Staples has continued to carry on the family tradition and continues to add her vocal talents to both the projects of other artists and her own solo ventures. Cleotha Staples died in Chicago on February 21, 2013, after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for over a decade.[2]

Discography[edit]

Charted albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Record label
US
[3]
US
R&B

[3]
CAN
[4]
1971 The Staple Swingers 117 9 Stax
1972 Be Altitude: Respect Yourself 19 3 72
1973 Be What You Are 102 13
1974 City in the Sky 125 13
1975 Let's Do It Again 20 1 87 Curtom
1976 Pass It On 155 20 Warner Bros.
1977 Family Tree 58
1978 Unlock Your Mind 34
1984 Turning Point 43 Private I
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

Charted singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions
US
[3]
US
R&B

[3]
CAN
[4]
UK
[5]
1967 "Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)" 95
"For What It's Worth" 66
1970 "Love Is Plentiful" 31
1971 "Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)" 27 6 60
"You've Got to Earn It" 97 11
"Respect Yourself" 12 2 17
1972 "I'll Take You There" 1 1 21 30
"This World" 38 6 85
1973 "Oh La De Da" 33 4
"Be What You Are" 66 18
"If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)" 9 1 79 34
1974 "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend" 23 3 33
"City in the Sky" 79 4
"My Main Man" 76 18
1975 "Let's Do It Again" 1 1 7
1976 "New Orleans" 70 4 84
"Love Me, Love Me, Love Me" 11
1977 "Sweeter Than the Sweet" 52
"See a Little Further (Than My Bed)" 77
1978 "I Honestly Love You" 68
"Unlock Your Mind" 16
1979 "Chica Boom" 82
1984 "H-A-T-E (Don't Live Here Anymore)" 46
"Slippery People" 109 22 78
"This Is Our Night" 50
1985 "Are You Ready?" 39
"Nobody Can Make It on Their Own" 89
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Preiser, David (2002). Uncloudy Day [CD liner notes]. New York:Koch Jazz.
  2. ^ Associated Press, "Cleotha Staples, eldest of the Staples Singers siblings, dies at 78", 22 February 2013
  3. ^ a b c d "US Charts > Staple Singers". Billboard. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  4. ^ a b "CAN Charts > Staple Singers". RPM. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  5. ^ "UK Charts > Staple Singers". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 

External links[edit]