Remembering Jack Ely, the singer behind 'Louie Louie'

The man who slurred his way through 'Louie Louie' has died at the age of 71

Jack Ely, the singer famous for his enthusiastic (if largely incomprehensible) vocal performance in the early-1960s rock hit "Louie Louie," died Tuesday in Oregon. He was 71.

Ely's death was confirmed by his son, Sean, who told the Associated Press that his father died "after a long battle" with an undisclosed illness.

Based in Portland, Ely's band the Kingsmen recorded "Louie Louie" in 1963, putting a scrappy garage-rock spin on a tune originally written and performed by Richard Berry.

The song, a three-chord stomp with a needling guitar solo, became a rock 'n' roll standard and was later covered by hundreds of acts, including the Clash, Frank Zappa and Iggy Pop.

The Kingsmen had originally planned to record "Louie Louie" as an instrumental, according to the AP, but decided at the last minute to have Ely sing it.

His trademark delivery -- basically a slur of words that proved as influential as the song's primal groove -- was reportedly the result of a microphone positioned several feet over his head.

Ely "had to stand on his toes, lean his head back and shout as loudly as he could just to be heard over the drums and guitars," the AP said.

Later in life, the singer -- who left the Kingsmen shortly after "Louie Louie" -- trained horses. He considered returning to music, said Sean Ely, but ultimately decided he "was pretty happy that he did 'Louie Louie.'"

Twitter: @mikaelwood

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