(CelebrityAccess) — James Burke, one of the five siblings who formed the Chicago-based soul group The Five Stairsteps, died on February 19th. He was 70.
Burke’s brother and bandmate, Dennis Burke, told Rolling Stone that James died from complications of pneumonia that was unrelated to COVID-19.
Formed in the mid 1960s in Chicago, the Five Stairsteps were made up of Alohe Jean, Clarence Jr., James, Dennis, and Kenneth “Keni”, and briefly, Cubie. The group was managed by their father and sometimes bassist Clarence Sr., who was also a detective with the Chicago Police Department.
The Five Stairsteps first made a name for themselves after winning a talent competition at Chicago’s Regal Theater and signed a recording deal with Curtis Mayfield’s Windy City label and their debut single “You Waited Too Long” landed at #16 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1966.
Their biggest hit came in 1970 with the release of “O-o-h Child” which peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold more than a million copies within a year.
In 1974, the group signed with George Harrison’s Dark Horse label and generated hits that included “From Us to You,” which cracked the Billboard R&B top ten in 1976. However, the group split that same year, with the siblings going their seperate ways.
Clarence Jr., James, Keni, Dennis all reformed as the Invisible Man Band and scored another hit in 1980 with the disco song “All Night Thing,” via Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records but the label disbanded following Bogart’s death in 1982.
After the Invisible Man Band disbanded, James turned his attention to painting but still played guitar and got together with his siblings for an occasional jam, his brother Dennis Burke told Rolling Stone.