gospel music United States

Funeral details confirmed for founding member Cleotha Staples in Chicago

Cleotha Staples
Cleotha Staples

Funeral services have been confirmed for Cleotha ‘Cleedi’ Staples (a founding member of the pioneering folk-gospel group, The Staple Singers), who died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease, on Feb. 21, 2013.

“We will keep on,” Mavis Staples says of her sisters’ death in a news release. “Yvonne and I will continue singing to keep our father’s legacy and our sister’s legacy alive.  I just finished my second record with Jeff Tweedy, and it will be dedicated to my dear Cleedi’s memory.”

The viewing takes place at 6 p.m. Thursday Feb. 28 at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 7838 South Cottage Grove, Chicago. The funeral service takes place at 10 a.m. Friday March 1 at Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 W 95th Street, Chicago. The burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery. Ms. Staples will be buried in the Staples family plot alongside her father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples; her mother, Oceola Staples; and her sister, Cynthia Staples.

The Staple Singers burst on the national scene in 1956 with the Vee Jay Records hit “If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again.” With Pops’ blues-influenced guitar, Cleotha’s bright high notes, Pervis’ falsetto and Mavis rich contralto, they were on their way to stardom. They became one of the biggest gospel outfits of the era and turned out best-selling gospel classics such as “On My Way to Heaven,” “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “Don’t Knock,” “Pray On” and their signature hit, “Uncloudy Day,” generally accepted to be the first gospel record to sell one million copies.

In the ’60s, the group began to record inspirational mainstream music such as “For What It’s Worth” and “Why? (Am I Treated So Bad).”  By 1968, they had moved on to Stax records where they enjoyed a steady run of Top 40 hits like “Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom Yeah)” and “Touch a Hand, Make a Friend” (1974).  The iconic million-seller “I’ll Take You There” spent a week at No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart and four weeks at that spot on the R&B singles chart. The group also earned other million-sellers such as “Respect Yourself” (1971), “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” (1973) and “Let’s Do It Again” (1975). The Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and they also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. Cleotha is survived by her siblings Pervis, Yvonne and Mavis; her dedicated caretakers Penny and Sushi; and a loving and wonderful extended family of nieces, nephews and treasured friends.