If generosity is putting others before oneself, then Yvonne Staples was the living embodiment of the virtue.

Staples, who died Tuesday at 80 from colon cancer, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 along with the other members of the Staple Singers: her sisters Mavis and Cleotha, (briefly) her brother Pervis and her father Roebuck "Pops" Staples.

The band was born at a church services one morning in 1948, when Pops brought his $10 guitar and the kids to sing for 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 would later became an important mainstay of Memphis's 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, eventually singing on such timelines hits as "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There."

Before that, she quietly made sure 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's voices. She mostly only added vocals to the group 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 again return to the business side of the industry, where she quietly excelled.

"She was very no nonsense but at the same time had a heart of gold," Carpenter said. "But when it came to business she was very strict. If this is what the contract said, this is what you better do."

But when her father died in 2000, Mavis almost gave up on music. Without her guiding force, Pops, what did she have?

Yvonne. She had Yvonne.

Knowing 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.

"Yvonne got me," Mavis once said. "Yvonne said, 'Mavis, your daddy would want you to keep singing. You've got to get up. You're daddy's legacy.' ... And that's when she started with the other words: 'Damn it, Mavis,' and worse. It woke me up."

And though she didn't necessarily want to, she also climbed back on stage to help guide her sister - who had became a bone fida 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, told the Chicago Tribune.

But even then, Yvonne remained humble.

"She didn't want to talk about her own singing," Carpenter told the Associated Press. "She said 'Mavis is the star. Mavis is the voice.' She never cared about attention for herself."