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Clarence Burke Jr., Five Stairsteps Singer, Dead at 64

Family group had a Top 10 hit with ‘O-o-h Child’ in 1970

Clarence Burke Jr. Five Stairsteps

Clarence Burke Jr. (pictured center) of Five Stairsteps.

Gilles Petard/Redferns

Clarence Burke Jr., lead singer of the Five Stairsteps, known for their hit “O-o-h Child,” died Sunday in Marietta, Georgia, The Associated Press reports, the day after he had turned 64. No cause of death has been announced.

Burke formed the family soul band with three of his brothers and a sister in 1965 in Chicago. He fronted the group, and produced, choreographed and wrote many of the Five Stairsteps’ songs and also played guitar. In 1966, the group’s first single, “You Waited Too Long” – which Burke wrote before he had turned 17 – rose to Number Six on Billboard‘s R&B chart.

500 Greatest Songs of  All Time: “O-o-h Child”

The group’s biggest hit came on “O-o-h Child,” a 1970 single that climbed to Number Eight on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Stan Vincent wrote the song, which has been covered by artists including Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Beth Orton, Kelly Rowland and Trey Anastasio.

The Five Stairsteps disbanded in the late 1970s, but the four brothers reunited briefly under the name the Invisible Man’s Band and scored a hit in 1980 with the dance single “All Night Thing.”

Most recently, Burke had continued to record with family and friends and play solo performances. 


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