Louie Louie singer Jack Ely dies aged 71

image copyrightReuters
image captionJack Ely died at home in Redmond, Oregon after a long battle with illness, his son said

Jack Ely, lead singer of The Kingsmen, who were best known for 1960s hit Louie Louie, has died at the age of 71.

His son Sean Ely said the musician died at home in Redmond, Oregon, after a long battle with an illness.

"Because of his religious beliefs, we're not even sure what (the illness) was," he said.

Ely's incoherent singing on Louie Louie led the FBI to investigate the famous track on the grounds that it might be obscene.

The law enforcement agents concluded, in a lengthy investigative report, that the song was "unintelligible at any speed".

Ely had a falling out with the band shortly after the song was recorded and later trained horses in Oregon.

Louie Louie was originally recorded in 1957 by Richard Berry, who had written it two years earlier.

The song is written from the perspective of a man who wants to sail to Jamaica to return to a girl he loves.

But it was Mr Ely's rendition that popularised the song.

His son said: "Right out of his mouth, my father would say, 'We were initially just going to record the song as an instrumental, and at the last minute I decided I'd sing it. It's all of this is in a 10-by-10 room with one microphone. I'm standing on my tippy toes yelling into the microphone: Louie Louie! Louie Louie! We gotta go!'"

The sound engineer working on the track raised the studio microphone to several feet above Ely's head and placed him in the middle of a group of musicians to create a better "live feel" for the recording.

The result was that Ely - who was 20 at the time - had to shout as loudly as he could to be heard over the drums and guitar.

It might not have helped, either, that Ely was wearing braces at the time, although he maintained that the main problem was trying to sing with his head tilted back at a 45-degree angle.

media captionLouie Louie's garbled lyrics made the song's performers, the Kingsmen, a target for the FBI

The song has been widely recognised by organisations including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence on the history of rock and roll.

Ely co-founded The Kingsmen in 1959. The band primarily recorded cover versions of songs. Four years later, the group recorded Louie Louie. The Kingsmen had a couple of other minor hits, Money and The Jolly Green Giant.

However, Ely was content with his legacy as a one-hit wonder, according to his son.

"He wanted to try on different occasions to pursue other endeavours in the music industry, but I think when it was all done and said he was pretty happy that he did Louie Louie."

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