Entertainment & Arts

Five Stairsteps singer Clarence Burke Jr dies

Kelly Rowland, Dusty Springfield and Nina Simone
Image caption Kelly Rowland, Dusty Springfield and Nina Simone are among the artists to have covered O-o-h Child

Clarence Burke Jr, the lead singer of US group the Five Stairsteps who were best known for their 1970 hit O-o-h Child, has died aged 64.

Friend and manager Joe Marno said the musician died on Sunday in Marietta, Georgia, where he lived. The cause of death was not given.

The Five Stairsteps were dubbed the "first family of soul" after scoring a five-year run of chart hits.

Their other songs included World of Fantasy and Don't Change Your Love.

Formed in Chicago in 1965, the group was made up of Burke, three of his brothers and a sister.

Their mother gave them their name after saying they looked like stairsteps when they stood beside each other in order of age.

Biggest hit

Eldest brother Burke, the group's producer and choreographer, also played guitar and wrote many of the songs.

He wrote the group's first single, You Waited Too Long, at the age of 16. The track rose to number six on Billboard's R&B charts in 1966.

O-o-h Child was the group's biggest hit, selling more than a million copies and reaching the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 402 on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

The song was covered many times by other artists, such as Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield and Kelly Rowland, and was sampled by 2Pac and Janet Jackson.

It has also been used in movies including 1991 film Boyz n the Hood and TV shows such as How I Met Your Mother and The Simpsons.

The group disbanded in the late 1970s. But the brothers briefly reformed as the Invisible Man's Band and had a 1980 success with dance single All Night Thing.

In recent years Burke performed solo concerts and continued to record with family and friends.

He is survived by his wife, Crystal, and five children.