Yvonne Staples, a longtime member of the Staple Singers who enjoyed a series of funky gospel-inflected hits in the 1970s, died on Tuesday at age 80. The cause of death was colon cancer, according to The New York Times.
Staples was born in 1937 in Chicago to Oceola and Roebuck “Pops” Staples. She sang in church as a child along with her siblings. “Pops” Staples initially formed the family band with Cleotha, Pervis and Mavis in 1948, and they began recording in 1953.
After the Staple Singers’ burst of hits in the 1970s, R&B’s mainstream began to move away from their gospel-funk sound, embracing disco’s four-on-the-floor beat and the mechanized rhythms and exciting textures provided by new drum machines and synthesizers. But the Staple Singers continued to record throughout the 1980s, albeit with less commercial success.
The group was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, shortly before “Pops” Staples died in 2000. The Staple Singers also took home a lifetime achievement honor at the 2005 Grammy Awards. Yvonne’s older sister Cleotha died in 2013.