The patriarch of one of music’s most successful families, Roebuck “Pops” Staples worked with everyone from Robert Johnson to Curtis Mayfield. Roebuck Staples was born December 28, 1914, in Winona, Mississippi; a close friend of Charley Patton, he played not only with Johnson but also with such legends as Son House and Robert Jr. Lockwood, becoming a top-notch blues guitarist in the process. Increasingly drawn to the church, he joined the gospel group the Golden Trumpets in 1937, and upon relocating to Chicago in 1941, he signed on with the Windy City’s trumpet jubilees.

By the following decade, Staples was regularly performing at services in the company of his daughters Mavis and Cleotha and son Pervis, and soon they began appearing professionally as the Staple Singers. While originally a gospel group, the family achieved its first commercial success with a more contemporary soul sound honed during the late ’60s while signed to the Stax label; by the early ’70s, the Staples even moved into funk, scoring a major pop hit with “I’ll Take You There.” Pops Staples did not pursue a solo career prior to releasing 1992’s Peace to the Neighborhood, which returned him to his blues and gospel roots. Its follow-up, 1994’s Father Father, earned a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

Staples also appeared in several films, including 1998’s Wag the Dog. Late in 2000, Staples suffered a concussion after a fall in his home; shortly thereafter, on December 19, he passed away at the age of 85. Some unfinished material, recorded the year prior to his death, was completed by Mavis, Jeff Tweedy, and Tweedy’s son Spencer, and released as Don’t Lose This on dBpm in 2015. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

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