Pouring one out for Jack Ely, the singer and guitarist of Oregon-born beat/garage rock group the Kingsmen, best known for their 1963 hit “Louie Louie.” He was 71.
According to the BBC, Ely’s son, Sean “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.”
And here’s some background on Ely’s finest moment, via Clash Music, a song that first spent six weeks at Number 2 on the Billboard chart in the early ’60s, and has remained a part of pop culture ever since.
‘Louie Louie’ was initially recorded by Richard Berry & The Pharoahs, a doo-wop tinged R&B dancer which notched up some respectable regional success.
Seized upon by new rock ‘n’ roll groups, though, ‘Louie Louie’ was become one of the most important tracks of the ’60s. Virtually every garage band worth their salt had a version up their sleeves, with The Kingsmen taking their version all the way to the top of the charts.
From the opening guitar line to the piano chords, the caveman drums and the simple production, The Kingsmen’s version of ‘Louie Louie’ remains absolute garage rock heaven. Perhaps the finest element of the recording, though, is Jack Ely’s deliriously snotty, almost incomprehensible vocal. Famously, the FBI decided that The Kingsmen decided that The Kingsmen were a threat to American life and decided to spend many months deciphering the lyrics.Their conclusion? No one had any idea what Ely was on about.