The Kingsmen’s Jack Ely, Singer Behind ‘Louie Louie’, Dies Aged 71

Written by Tom Williams on 29th April, 2015

The Kingsmen’s Jack Ely, Singer Behind ‘Louie Louie’, Dies Aged 71

Jack Ely, best known as the former vocalist of rock group The Kingsmen, and for the iconic vocals on the band’s 1963 hit, Louie Louie, has died. Ely passed away on Tuesday, 28th April, at his home in Redmond, Oregon. He was 71.

As Associated Press reports, Ely’s death has been confirmed by his son, Sean Ely, who said his father passed after battling an illness.

Ely led The Kingsmen in the 1960s, and his almost unintelligible Louie Louie vocals were at one time investigated by the FBI, who were worried Ely was singing obscene lyrics. In their 455-page report, the FBI ruled that the song was “unintelligible at any speed”.

Louie Louie was written by African-American singer-songwriter Richard Berry in 1955, before The Kingsmen released their version in 1963. The Kingsmen’s version remains the most well-known rendition of the song, though acts as diverse as Otis Redding, The Beach Boys, Ray Davies, Motörhead, Black Flag, Australian Crawl, Smashing Pumpkins and Iggy Pop have all famously covered the tune.

The Kingsmen’s Louie Louie has been incredibly influential in rock and pop circles. It was one of the first songs to attract the label “garage rock” and has been cited as an important progenitor for what would eventually be called punk.

After his stint with The Kingsmen, Ely started a band called Jack Ely & The Courtmen, who also played Louie Louie (below) from time to time. Ely became a horse trainer in his later years.

Relive Louie Louie in all its 60’s Mod-dancing glory, below.

Watch: The Kingsmen – Louie Louie

Watch: Jack Ely & The Courtmen – Louie Louie (Live In Las Vegas, 2008)


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