Clarence Burke Jr. (pictured), the lead singer, choreographer, and guitarist of the very popular ’70s soul group The Five Stairsteps, recently passed away from undisclosed causes at age 62, according to VVN Music.
Burke was the lead singer of the group that hailed out of Chicago and consisted of five of his six siblings: Alohe Jean, Clarence Jr.,James, Dennis, Kenneth or “Keni,” and briefly, Cubie.
The group, which oftentimes was referred to as ‘The First Family of Soul,” had a vocal sound that was comforting and mellow and this was very much evident in their 1970 hit “O-o-h Child” that got up to No. 392 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Watch “O-o-h Child” here:
The Five Stairsteps got their name because their parents thought they looked like stairsteps when they were arranged by age. First discovered by a member of the R&B group The Impressions, the teens’ musical career soared when they were introduced to musical legend Curtis Mayfield and signed to his label.
Initially, they performed as The Five Stairsteps and Cubie and then as The Five Stairsteps.
Burke, along with his father, Clarence, who worked as a police detective, co-wrote many of the group’s songs, but it was not until 1970 when they were signed to the hitmaker’s label Buddah Records that the group struck gold with “O-o-h Child,” which sold more than 1 million copies. The group continued to record, and again in 1976, Burke co-wrote the group’s second R&B monster hit “From Us to You.”
Listen to “From Us to You” here:
After the Stairsteps disbanded in 1977, Burke, his brothers Keni, James, and Dennis along with keyboard player Dean Gant formed the group The Invisible Man’s Band, and in 1980, they released one of the hottest disco jams of all time, “All Night Thing,” which transported the brothers back to the musical No. 1 spot they once held. Three years later, the group knocked one last hit out of the ballpark with “Sunday Afternoon” and then each went their own way.
Throughout the years, Burke continued to write and produce songs throughout the years and as of late had begun touring again.