Pervis Staples, Member Of Famed Staple Singers, Dead At 85

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CHICAGO: Pervis Staples, whose tenor voice complimented his fathers and sisters in the legendary gospel group The Staple Singers, has died, a spokesman announced Wednesday. He was 85.

Pervis Staples died May 7 at his home in Dalton, Illinois, according to Adam Ayers, a spokesman for Staples’ sister, Mavis Staples. The cause of death wasnt given.

Pervis Staples sang gospel songs with his father, the guitar-playing Roebuck “Pops Staples, and sisters Mavis, Yvonne and Cleotha in Chicago churches before gaining a national following when they began recording songs such as So Soon, If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and Uncloudy Day for Vee Jay records in the 1950s.

The group gained fame in the 1960s by singing music that urged change on a variety of social and religious issues. The Staples Singers gained a huge audience with their first No. 1 hit Ill Take You There in 1972 and followed with top 40 hits Respect Yourself, Heavy Makes You Happy, and If Youre Ready (Come Go With Me).

However, Pervis last album with The Staple Singers was their first for Stax Records, “Soul Folks in Action in 1968. The album featured new songs such as The Ghetto and their interpretations of tunes like Otis Reddings (Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay and The Bands The Weight. He went on to manage the girl group Emotions and operated a popular nightclub, Pervs House.

Pervis Staples was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his family in 1999. The group also received a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys in 2005.

Mavis Staples, the lone survivor of the group, said in a statement that her brothers childhood was filled with wonderful experiences.

He liked to think of this period of his life as setting the stage for all that he wanted to do in life, she said. “Some of Pervis best friends as a youngster included Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, and Jerry Butler. Pervis and the guys would stand under the lamp posts in the summertime singing doo-wop songs.

Despite the success of Rawls and Cooke, Roebuck Staples routinely rejected offers to the group to record rhythm and blues, saying it was in conflict with his faith. However, it was with the nudging of Pervis Staples that the group compromised by performing message music in the 1960s, performing at music festivals around the country.

Pervis Staples was born November 18, 1935 in Drew, Mississippi. He and his family moved to Chicago for economic opportunities. That is where Roebuck Staples, started teaching his children gospel songs to entertain them and occupy their time.

Pervis Staples was preceded in death by his parents, Roebuck and Oceola; and three sisters, Cynthia, Cleotha, and Yvonne. He is survived by his six children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be held Monday in Chicago.

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