The Staple Singers were formed in 1948 when the family’s patriarch, Pops Staples, began performing with his children Cleotha, Pervis, and Mavis. Yvonne first joined the band after her brother Pervis was drafted into the army, and then again in 1970 on a more permanent basis.
Yvonne’s baritone completed the harmonies that went into the iconic group’s blend of gospel, funk, and soul. “That harmony is always going to be there,” Mavis Staples once said, “because you all grew up together.” Yvonne appeared on several of The Staple Singers’ most popular songs, including “Respect Yourself,” “I’ll Take You There”, and “Heavy Makes You Happy”.
Together, the familia pop group recorded over 30 albums.Their biggest successes came with Stax Records in the ’70s, with 1972’s Be Altitude: Respect Yourself cracking the top 20 on the charts. They’d reach that feat again after Stax’s closing when they released Let’s Do it Again in 1975 on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records label.
Yvonne and the rest of the group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2005, they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, with the Recording Acadmey noting they “left an imprint of soulful voices, righteous conviction and danceable message music across the decades.” The Gospel Music Hall of Fame inducted The Staple Singers in 2018.
Pop Staples passed away in 2000 and Cleotha died in 2003. Mavis continues to record new music, most recently teaming with writer/producer Jeff Tweedy on If All I Was Was Black and appearing on the Gorillaz track “Let Me Out”.