Pervis Staples, Founding Member Of The Staple Singers, Dies At Age 85
Pervis Staples, a founding member of the Staple Singers, has died. According to a statement from a family spokesperson, he died suddenly in his home in Dolton, Ill, on May 6. He was 85 years old.
Staples was born in Drew, Miss., in 1935, the second of five children. The family soon relocated to Chicago, Ill., where patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples worked in a steel mill. In order to keep his kids occupied while their mother worked the night shift at a downtown hotel, Pops had them sit around in a circle and sing. This is the seed of what would eventually become the Staple Singers: Pops on guitar, with children Cleotha, Pervis and Mavis on vocals. (Yvonne Staples would take Pervis' place when he was drafted into the Army in 1958).
"Pervis' childhood was filled with wonderful experiences," Mavis Staples said in a statement. "He liked to think of this period of his life as setting the stage for all that he wanted to do in life."
In the early years, the Staple Singers stuck mostly to gospel music, at Pops's orders. Pervis finally convinced him otherwise, introducing his dad to his friend Bob Dylan. Greg Kot, author of I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the Music That Shaped the Civil Rights Era, said in an interview that a young Dylan played the same festivals as the Staple Singers, and was a big fan. Pervis played "Blowin' in the Wind" to his father, who was struck by how the music spoke to the message of the ongoing Civil Rights movement.