Thursday, May 30, 2013
CLARENCE BURKE JR.
You know his voice, because Clarence was the lead singer in the sibling group The Five Stairsteps on their only really big hit: "O-o-h Child." Clarence was spending a lot of time in my part of Jersey, my old home town in fact, South Orange, when I moved back to the area in 1999. A mutual friend got Clarence to take part in a monthly show of local musicians and singers in a coffee house in South Orange that opened shortly after we moved here and has since closed. But the talent in that room once a month was overwhelming. (I wrote a post about it you can read here.)
One of the performers was Dion Flynn, who has since gone on to become a regular on the Jimmy Fallon show with his Obama and other characters. But the one who moved me the most was Clarence. He always showed up looking sharp in old style performer suit with a little flash to it. And he took part in songs that had nothing to do with his personal history. But when they'd get him to sing "O-o-h Child," it was like everyone's breath stopped, in awe of his talent and our own memories of its earlier incarnation.
He had just turned 64, which is way to young to be gone, but as happens sometimes with talented creative artists, the sound of his voice intoning "Oo-ooh Child, things are gonna get be-e-tter..." will live on long after we're all gone. R.I.P. Clarence.
[PS: I couldn't link to the post I wrote because I can't find it, but here's a link to the NY Times obit.]