‘Louie Louie’ Singer Jack Ely Dead at 71
Singer Jack Ely -- formerly of The Kingsmen, the group who went on to record "Louie Louie," one of the most famous songs of all time -- has reportedly died at the age of 71.
Ely's son, Sean Ely, confirmed the death of his father earlier today (April 28), though he admitted he was not sure what the circumstances were leading up to his death other than his having suffered from an undisclosed illness of some sort. He said (quote via Yahoo!), "Because of his religious beliefs, we're not even sure what (the illness) was."
Ely was a member of the 1959 formed band the Kingsmen. The band itself typically performed cover songs until eventually recording "Louie Louie" for a reported $36. Although the song itself was not written by the band, their version is the definitive one, known for its notoriously misunderstood lyrics and simple but infectious three-chord progression. (Kurt Cobain once admitted to a similarity in guitar riffs between "Louie Louie" and Nirvana's biggest hit-turned-anthem-of-a-generation "Smells Like Teen Spirit.")
According to Yahoo!, the lyrics were so convoluted that the FBI launched an investigation as to whether or not the song was obscene. Their 455-page report came to the conclusion that the song was "unintelligible at any speed."
Ely's son says his father knew the lyrics, and blamed the shoddy recording equipment they used for the incoherence. Sean said, "Right 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!'"
Shortly after the song was recorded, Ely reportedly had a falling out with the band but remained content with the success of "Louie Louie," choosing to live a quiet life training horses.