The Staple Singers were made by Roebuck "Pops" Staples”, the patriarch of the family, who formed the group with his children Cleotha, Pervis, and Mavis. Yvonne replaced her brother when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. 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".

Pops was a "pivotal figure in gospel in the 1960s and 1970s," and also an accomplished songwriter, guitarist and singer. Their first public singing appearance was at the Mount Zion Church, Chicago, where Roebuck's brother, the Rev. Chester Staples, was pastor. They signed their first professional contract in 1952.

During their early career, they recorded in an acoustic gospel-folk style with various labels: United Records, Vee-Jay Records, Checker Records, Riverside Records, and then Epic Records in 1965.

In 1968, the Staple Singers signed to Stax Records and released two albums with Steve Cropper—Soul Folk in Action and We'll Get Over, Pervis returning for them. After Cropper left Stax, Al Bell produced their recordings, moving in a more funk and soul direction.

The Staple Singers' first Stax hit was "Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)" in early 1971. Their late 1971 recording of "Respect Yourself", peaked at number two on the Billboard R&B chart and number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Both hits sold over one million copies and were each awarded a gold disc.

After Stax's 1975 bankruptcy, The Staple Singers signed to Curtis Mayfield's label, Curtom Records, and released "Let's Do It Again", produced by Mayfield; the song became their second number-one pop hit in the U.S., and the album was also successful.

Pops Staples died of complications from a concussion suffered in December 2000.

Cleotha Staples died in Chicago in 2013, at the age of 78.

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. Her 2016 album Livin' on a High Note includes a simple acoustic version of a Martin Luther King sermon in the track "MLK Song".

Yvonne Staples died on April 10, 2018 at the age of 80.

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