Staples was born December 28, 1914 on a cotton plantation near Winona, Mississippi. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade. In 1935, he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he sang with the Trumpet Jubilees. In 1948, he formed The Staple Singers with his children as a gospel group and they started recording in the early 1950s with songs such as “This May Be the Last Time” and “Uncloudy Day.”
In the 1960s they started recording protest, inspirational, and contemporary music and had a number of hits including “Respect Yourself” (1971), “I’ll Take You There” (1972), “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” (1973), and “Let’s Do it Again” (1975). After the group disbanded in the 1980s, Staples began a solo career and in 1995 he won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for “Father, Father.” In 1999, the Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.