Cleotha Staples, one of the founding members of the renowned Chicago soul and gospel group the Staple Singers, died Thursday at the age of 78.

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She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for 12 years, and had been under 24-hour home care. Her longtime caretaker was with her when she died at 11:11 a.m. Thursday in her high-rise condominium on the South Side, according to her sister, Mavis Staples.

Cleotha, the oldest child of Roebuck “Pops” and Osceola Staples, began learning to sing in the late Forties when Pops taught her and her siblings – Mavis, Pervis and Yvonne – the songs he had sung as a child with his family at Dockery Farm plantation in Mississippi. Soon the Staple Singers were performing at churches throughout the South Side, and by 1953 they were cutting records and playing shows outside of Chicago.

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