If generosity is putting others before oneself, then Yvonne Staples was the living embodiment of the virtue.
Staples, who died Tuesday at 80 of colon cancer, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 along with the other members of the Staple Singers: her sisters Mavis and Cleotha, her brother Pervis and her father Roebuck "Pops" Staples.
The band was born at a church service in 1948, when Pops brought his $10 guitar and the kids to sing for the congregation. They were cheered onto three encores, and the collection basket was notably heavier than normal.
Pops envisioned a new future for the family. The gospel group exploded onto the scene in 1957 with its first hit, "Uncloudy Day," and became an important mainstay of Memphis' Stax Records, recording several Top 40 hits there in the late 1960s.
The group could have been Yvonne's runway to stardom, and it was one that Mavis used to become a national R&B treasure herself.
But Yvonne assumed a behind-the-scenes role. She didn't even begin adding her own vocals to the band until 1971, singing on such hits as "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There."
Before that, she quietly made sure that the band was a well-oiled machine.
"At an early age, Yvonne was taking care of business and subtly running things," Pops once said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Even after she began singing, she stuck to backup vocals, highlighting her father's and sisters' voices. She mostly added vocals to the group only when someone else took a break, such as when Pervis joined the Army or Cleotha got married — instead focusing on her other passions, such as volunteering at a hospital for the mentally ill.
"She was very content in that role," Bill Carpenter, the author of "Uncloudy Day: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia," told the New York Times. "She had no desire to be a front singer, even though people in the family told her she had a great voice."
Her reasoning for helping out was simple, as she once said: "When Daddy asked us to do something, we did it. No questions asked."
The group's output slowed from a flood to a trickle in the 1980s, by which point Mavis was becoming a star in her own right. Yvonne still worked with her sister, choosing to return again to the business side of the industry, where she excelled.
When Pops died in 2000, Mavis almost gave up on music. Knowing that her sister was in pain and needed her, Yvonne sat Mavis down and talked some sense into her using a few stronger words than she generally did.
And although she didn't necessarily want to, she also climbed back on stage to help guide her sister — who had became a bona fide star, who earned Grammy Awards, who was friends with Prince, who dated Bob Dylan and who sang at the White House.
"She was a reluctant singer, but she knew Mavis needed her, so she sang with her every night onstage," country singer Marty Stuart, who was friends with the Staples family, told the Chicago Tribune.
Even then, he said, Yvonne remained humble.