Jack Ely, the lead singer of the Kingsmen who was best known for 1960s hit Louie Louie, has died aged 71. His son, Sean Ely said the singer died at home in Redmond, Oregon after a long battle with an illness.
Ely’s incoherent singing on Louie Louie led the FBI to investigate the famous track on the grounds that it might be obscene. Ely had a falling out with the band shortly after the song was recorded and later trained horses in Oregon.
“Louie Louie” was recorded in 1957 by Richard Berry, who had written it two years earlier.
The song is written from the perspective of a man who wants to sail to Jamaica to return to a girl he loves. But it was Mr Ely’s rendition that popularised the song, which became a huge hit.
Louie Louie’s garbled lyrics made the song’s performers, the Kingsmen, a target for the FBI Its popularity brought it to the attention of the FBI, which worried that Mr Ely’s peculiar vocal style might be masking lyrics that broke federal obscenity laws.
The law enforcement agents reportedly concluded, in a lengthy investigative report (consisting of over 400 pages!), that the song was “unintelligible at any speed”.
Despite hundreds of covers by artists including Otis Redding, the Beach Boys, and the Sonics, the Kingsmens’ version of Louie Louie remains the definitive recording.