Cleotha Staples, the founding member of the Chicago soul group The Staples Singers, has died after a 12 year battle with Alzheimer's disease. Her sister Mavis Staples' representative confirmed the sad news to the Chicago Tribune, saying Cleotha had been under 24-hour home care in recent weeks.

Mavis said that her sister's long-time caretaker was with her when she passed away on Wednesday morning in her condominium on the South Side of Chicago. Known for her distinctive vocals, Cleotha was a crucial part of the Staples Singers rich harmonies and was instrumental in the group's success with hit songs I'll Take You There, Respect Yourself and Uncloudy Day. 

The Staple Singers started out singing in churches throughout the South Side, before cutting their first records by 1953. "I credit Pops' guitar and Cleedy's voice with making our sound so different," Mavis Staples said of sister Cleotha, "Her high voice - Pops would take her to a minor key a lot. A lot of singers would try to sing like her. Gladys Knight's background singer [in the Pips], William [Guest], would tell Cleedy, 'I'm trying to sound like you." The group scored their first gospel hit with Uncloudy Day in 1957, though continued their success during the sixties and seventies with tracks mainly produced by Al Bell, of Stax Records. 

Cleotha Staples is survived by sisters Mavis and Yvonne and brother Pervis.