Cleotha ”Cleedi” Staples (pictured), the eldest member of the famed soul/gospel group, The Staple Singers, passed away on Feb. 21 of causes related to Alzheimer’s disease. The performer had battled the disease for over a decade, according to Philly.com. She was 78. Cleotha was born in Drew, Miss., on April 11, 1934 to Roebuck “Pops” Staples and his wife Oceola. She was soon followed by siblings Pervis, Yvonne, Mavis and Cynthia.
After relocating to Chicago in search of better employment opportunities, Cleotha’s father managed to work a few manual labor jobs while Oceola toiled at a hotel stint overnight. Pops began to teach his children gospel songs in order to keep them entertained during the evenings while their mother worked. Pops’ sister Katie enjoyed her brother and his family’s singing so much that she invited them to sing at her church one Sunday morning in 1948. Congregants loved what they heard and begged for three encores. This event marked the beginning of the Staples family’s professional singing career.
The Staple Singers “Respect Yourself” On Soul Train: