Remembering Clarence Burke Jr (of the Five Stairsteps – A REAL “UNSUNG HERO” OF BLACK MUSIC)
Remembering Clarence Burke Jr (of the Five Stairsteps.) More detail than you thought you would ever want to know…
A Facebook Memory Popped Up…
Some folks have recently told me the following observation about me: “Bob you just don’t seem to bring the same energy to Soul-Patrol, that you used to.” Well, that is certainly a correct observation. Some of this is due to my age (remember I was in my late 30’s when I started Soul-Patrol, I am now 66) and certainly my health (what I first started Soul-Patrol I had never even heard of “chronic kidney disease.)
However, a much larger factor are the sheer number of really good people I have met, who have now passed away. Probably the passing that has impacted me the most is the passing of my friend Clarence Burke Jr.
Of course, you know him best as the lead singer of the legendary family vocal group from Chicago called the “FIVE STAIRSTEPS.
A few of you will also remember him as being a great “Curtis Mayfield Style Guitarist,” who was good enough to be a member of the ORIGINAL LINEUP for the legendary Graham Central Station, and how that set the stage for his own “funk journey,” as the genius behind the Invisible Man’s Band and their MONSTER FUNK JAM “All Night Thang.”
However, I knew him best as friend. He and I had as much in common as any of the brothers I grew up with in NY and on top of that, his dad was a big city policeman, just like my own father was. He and I were on the same wavelength most of the time on most things. Even on the things we disagreed on.
I first met him early on in the life of the Soul-Patrol website, as I was then playing “detective,” trying to answer that often asked question; “HEY BOB, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE FIVE STAIRSTPS?”
Turned out that was a pretty easy question to answer (They grew up, went to college, got married, had kids, etc and left the entertainment business.) But along the way I met Clarence and the two of us became fast friends. In fact some of you may have met him, if you were in attendance for the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention, where he treated the crowd to a fantastic concert, including performing live for the first time songs from the legendary/mysterious Five Stairsteps album called “SECOND RESURECTION,” as well as classics such as “DANGER SHE’S A STRANGER” (just for me….lol.)
After he finsihed up his performance we embrace eash other and he says to me;
“Yo bro, did you get that all on video?”
I said; “yes we did.”
He said; “Promise me you will never put it up on the internet. It’s only for the consumption of the people who actually got up off of their azzes and came here tonight. I did this show only for you and your people man.”
Of course I have never posted the concert online. And If anybody ever tells you that they have seen those songs performed live, they are telling you a big fat lie, unless they were there. I have the only copy on a disc, right here in a drawer inside of the desk the computer I am typing into right now is sitting on 🙂
Anyhow, I can’t write much more about him without starting to cry, so I’ll end it here by telling you that when he passed away, “the air started coming out of the balloon,” for me in a big way. And that my friends is most likely the main reason for the observation made about me that I referenced at the top of this posting, just too many good people that made all of this a truly fun endevor for me are passing from the scene.
Happy Birthday Bruh (Random Thoughts on Clarence Burke Jr, Friendship & John Lee Hooker)
Bob Davis (Facebook Memory, Originally posted to Facebook on May 25, 2021)
Shared with Public
IT was a rainy night in Newark, NJ 2010 and I was on my way to see my friend Clarence Burke Jr. On the surface there is no good reason why this friendship should exist at all. Nevertheless, I had long ago accepted it is a fact of life.
This guy and i had so much in common, it was unreal. And it had manifested itself in many different ways over the years. He was on the “comeback trail,” once again, so I was therefore obligated to drive to Newark to personally bear witness to this latest installment.
I enter the club and to the tables on the right-hand side, I see many of the “Classic Soul Artists of NYC” seated (Blue Magic, Persuaders, Skyy, Brass Construction, etc.) I stop and acknowledge all of them, one by one, before heading backstage to wish my boy well before the show. When I enter the dressing room he is there, all decked out ready to go on stage.
He says; “Yo man you gonna write about me tonight?”
I said; “I had planned to, but something just isn’t right.”
He says; “What’s not right?”
I said; “Look at how you are dressed.”
He said; “That’s right m*therfucker, I’m dressed like John Lee Hooker tonight because I knew YOUR Black azz was gonna be here.
I smiled and hugged him and said; “I’ll see you later.’
I went back into the club, took a seat and of course he delivered a killer Five Stairsteps, Curtis Mayfield, Sly & the Family Stone and Invisible Man Band set. (w/Touch of Class on background vocals)
When the show ended, I ran up and hugged him.
I said; “John Lee Hooker, eh”
He said; “Man, I’m from Chicago and your from NYC, You ain’t even supposed to know nothing about no John Lee Hooker, but I’ll tell ya what? Next time don’t be surprised if I not only look like John Lee Hooker, but I also play some John Lee Hooker tunes just for you…”
Like I said earlier….
There is no good reason on the surface, why this friendship ever existed at all.
But I miss this brotha.
I miss him more that I could ever express on this piece of paper.
His absence, makes me remember that it is far more important to savor the people that you love while they are here.
Even if it feels inconvenient or embarrassing.
You may not get a chance to do it later…
Concert Review: Newark, NJ: Clarence Burke Jr @ the Key Club (March 12 2010)
“One, two, three…Waiting on the dance, To get started. Hollywood stands, it’s jammed down, OOH CHILD It’s a party now…”
All i gotta say is that it was one of those rare times when ya get to experience pure musical genius on display. This was like seeing Prince, or Shuggie Otis, or John Lee Hooker or Curtis Mayfield or John Lennon. No I take that back, it was more like seeing them all rolled up into one at the same time!!
And really that should be enough. I really shouldn’t have to write another word. But since I know that won’t be enough for you and that you simply just won’t take my word for it, now you are going to be subjected to the manifestation of some of my worst writing instincts.
This concert was nothing short of a dream come true. You see, not only was it a chance to experience a 40 + year nostalgic fantasy of mine, of actually hearing a voice that has been locked inside of my mind for 40+ years but it also gives me the opportunity to bear witness to having experienced the musical genius of one of the true “unsung heroes of Black music.
There is a music-oriented TV show currently running on one of the cable TV kne-gro channels called “Unsung Heroes.” The title of the show would lead one to believe that the show is about artists whose names we don’t know and would tell us the reasons why we should know who they are based on their overall musical/cultural contributions. Instead the show tells us more details, then perhaps we need to know about artists who are already at least moderately famous, most of which could easily be obtained by going to that artist website and taking at least a few moments to actually read what is written there. That is not to say that the show itself is bad, it’s actually pretty entertaining, but the title is misleading.
CLARENCE BURKE JR. IS A REAL “UNSUNG HERO” OF BLACK MUSIC.
As the lead singer, lead guitarist and key songwriter of the Five Stairsteps, Clarence Burke jr’s voice has been one that has been burned very deeply inside of the inner depths of the brain of this writer since he was a very young teenager. If you know ANYTHING about the history of the Five Stairsteps (which I will refrain from re-canting at this moment), you know that between 1966 – 1970 they released about 10 iconic slow jams. Not “ballads,” I mean serious/hard core grind em down to the floor push em up against the wall basement blue light specials, dealing with everything from teen angst, somehow morphing into adult sexuality and back. Masterfully produced by Curtis Mayfield all of these songs are quite haunting and distinctive. These songs are all anchored by the angelic voice and super sweet/erotic funk guitar playing of a pre-pubescent young man out of Chicago named Clarence Burke Jr.
I was a HUGE fan of these iconic slow jams. So it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone reading this that as a college student during the early – mid 1970’s, I made a special “love tape.” Once side was filled with songs from the Moments, Black Ivory, etc. The other side of the tape were those 10 iconic slow jams of the Five Stairsteps, featuring the voice of Clarence Burke jr. As you might also imagine, this tape served a very specific & strategic purpose in what was then my major lifestyle pursuit at that stage of my life. Needless to say, it is a fact of my life that the voice of Clarence Burke Jr. has helped me to obtain more p_____ than he (or you) can begin to imagine 🙂
So on March 12th 2010 on a cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey at approximately 8:30pm when Clarence Burke Jr. emerged thru the curtain, wearing a serious black on black on black “John Lee Hooker style suit, complete with bowler hat, guitar slung over his shoulder a’ la Hendrix and started singing, most appropriately…”YOU WAITED TOO LONG”, “WORLD OF FANTASY” , “COME BACK”, and “DANGER SHE’S A STRANGER,” I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven. After all these were but a few of those “10 iconic slow jams” from my long lost “love tape” and for the very first time I was hearing them being performed live and being performed live by the same person whose voice/guitar playing singing those songs was by now a permanent feature of the core of my 53 year old cerebellum. Of course I was singing along, just as I have done hundreds of times before, the lyrics of these songs are second nature to me.
To make a statement like “Clarence Burke Jr’s still got it,” is something of an understatement. The proof of that could be seen as my eyes started to wonder around the room and I saw most of the other members of the audience (which included more than a few Classic Soul artists like members of Blue Magic, the Persuaders, Brass Construction & Skyy and others) doing EXACTLY the same thing I was doing. I observed the audience members, both male & female mouthing/singing the lyrics of these great songs. I wondered to myself if perhaps these folks had also created a “love tape”, featuring the Five Stairsteps like I had way back in what seems like another lifetime?
For some, that would have been quite enough, but that segment would prove to be just the beginning, because Clarence had plenty more in store for us. He completely changed gears by doing a great stank azz cover version of the Sly & the Family Stone classic “Somebody’s Watching You.” As I sat and listened to this classic song of paranoia/distrust it made me not only think of Sly Stone’s misguided comeback of a couple of years ago, but also of how the musical career of the Stairsteps went thru a state of both transformation & confusion during the same early 1970’s timeframe that the rest of our society did. At the same time that America was struggling in earnest to transform itself from and imperialistic & racist society (ie; Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, etc.), the Five Stairsteps were trying to transform themselves from a stand up vocal group artists into a fully realized singer/songwriter self-contained funk band. And although they were able to make that transformation both successful on artistic & commercial levels, they lost their identity and to most of their fans, seemingly just disappeared.
However, the Stairsteps didn’t disappear, they just did what all “super heroes” did, they changed into another identity in order to “protect the innocent and fool the guilty.”
After Clarence Burke Jr. finished playing “Somebody’s Watching You” he played the songs “NINE TIMES OUT OF TEN”, “PASADO”, and “ALL THE WAY.” This grouping of beautiful songs in many ways represent a huge departure from the previous incarnation of the Stairsteps. You could hear jazz influences, you can hear the influence of the Beatles, you can hear the influence of all of the artists in the mid-1970’s who made “music for the head” during the early to mid 1970’s. Most importantly you can hear the struggle of talented young people who are growing older & wiser, trying to make certain that their new found wisdom is making its way into their music. However historically for Five Stairstep fans these songs represent the period of time when the Five Stairsteps literally “fell off of the face of the earth” and disappeared into the ether. This is during the same period of time when the artists that most of us fans considered to be the “competitors” of the Five Stairsteps (Jackson Five, Sylvers, etc) were at their height. Clarence Burke jr knows all of this and that is why he is now performing all of this beautiful music immediately following the song “Somebody’s Watching You” .
Without sounding too “biblical” this is what is known as the “second resurrection” period of the Five Stairsteps (also the name of their mostly unknown, highly sought after and long out of print album).
In between Clarence plays a fierce and poignant cover version of the classic song “People Get Ready,’ which not only reminds us once again of Clarence’s substantial guitar playing skills, but also reminds us of an important fact that we all know but is seldom discussed. During their initial period, the music of the Five Stairsteps was produced by the legendary Curtis Mayfield and in fact were on Mayfield’s label “Windy C.” What is painfully obvious, yet understated when watching/listening to Clarence Burke Jr. playing and singing “PEOPLE GET READY” is the influence of Curtis Mayfield. It is indeed a joy & a pleasure to watch and serves as a perfect set up (get ready folks”) for what is to come next….
What most Five Stairsteps fans don’t realize is that during the timeframe when they thought that the group had disappeared, the Five Stairsteps were actually right in front of their faces. You see, the Five Stairsteps had indeed made that successful transition from a stand-up vocal group artists into a fully realized singer/songwriter self-contained funk band. However, they did it in-cog-ne-gro, under a completely different name and persona, which bore absolutely no clues to their fans as to what had happened to them.
They did it with the incredibly funky and infectious song, “ALL NIGHT THANG,” under the improbable name “THE INVISIBLE MAN’S BAND” in 1980, which to my knowledge has never been performed live. (dat’s cuz you ain’t supposed to see “the invisible man’s band….lol)
That is until March 12th, 2010 on a cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey at approximately 9:30pm when Clarence Burke Jr. absolutely TORE THA ROOF OFF THA SUCKA when he played 10 minute or so rendition of “ALL NIGHT THING.” Needless to say, the audience went absolutely nuts and Clarence absolutely ate it up. Now he was indeed “wielding his axe,” as the crowd rose to it’s feet, dancing & hollering as loud as they could for as long as they could.
For most artists, that would have been more than enough to end the show. Crowd on it’s feed, everyone all sweaty and smiling. However everyone knew that the show wasn’t over. Everyone knew that there was one more song that had to be performed in order to not only legitimize the show, but to also put the entire story that Clarence Burke Jr. had managed to musically tell on stage on this cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey.
The song “OOH CHILD” reached #8 pop and #14 R&B way back in the year 1970. Not only is it the signature song of the Five Stairsteps, but it is also an anthem for anyone who grew up in the 1960’s/1970’s. It is an uplifting/message song which transcends race, gender, geography, etc. and over the years has become a staple of many movie/TV soundtracks which deal with people growing up in the 1960’s/1970’s. Clarence Burke Jr. knows that there is no way that he is going to leave the stage without singing “OOH CHILD,” so he is gonna make it special.
As the band starts to play the song, Clarence informs us that there are only two people who have ever been allowed to replace any of is brothers onstage if they were ill or couldn’t make a show. It just so happens that those two men today are members of a local New Jersey group called “A Touch of Class and since the “just so happen to be in the audience tonight,”can they join him on stage to sing”OOH CHILD. Of course “A Touch Of Class” joins Clarence on stage and together they all do a fabulous rendition of “OOH CHILD,” to end the show.
I could probably write a whole lot more about what happened on this cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey. However I’ll save that for another time, because I suspect that your patience has already been worn thing, by what I have written thus far.
Instead I will simply leave you with the words of Clarence Burke Jr. himself as he said many times from the stage on a cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey:
“I’m only one stairstep, in a minute there’s gonna be two stairsteps and soon there will be three and before you know it, there will be five stairsteps on stage right in front of your eyes.”
I have no idea when that is going to happen, but you can bet your bottom dolla that whenever it does happen, Bob Davis will be in the audience. That’s because despite the fact that on a cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey, Clarence Burke jr. delivered certainly the best show I have seen thus far in 2010, in fact it was one of the best shows I have ever seen period, this show can be characterized mostly by two things:
1. What was there (the best show that I have seen thus far in 2010)
2. What wasn’t there (the voices of Alohe, Keni, Dennis, and James Burke)
“Some day, we’ll get it together and we’ll get it all done….”
NOTES ON: “Danger She’s a Stranger”
NOTE #1: Clarence first became aware of Soul-Patrol as a result of listening to the 1 Hour Five Stairsteps Internet Radio Special. If you listen to it, I completely disrupt Gary Tyson’s broadcast, by “bogarting” my way in and insisting on playing the song “Danger She’s a Stranger.” Clarence heard this and later told me that when he heard it, he thought to himself; “I gotta meet this Bob Davis dude, he is totally off the wall serious about the Five Stairsteps. This brotha must truly be “sick.” I gotta find out what’s wrong with him for myself, up close & personal…”
NOTE #2: It’s no secret that “Danger She’s a Stranger,” is my very favorite Five Stairsteps song. How ironic that I wrote the essay entitled “Danger She’s a Stranger (Memorial Day Memories),” on a Memorial Day Weekend and Clarence passed away on Memorial Day Weekend. “Danger She’s a Stranger” made it to #16 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1966. However to me it is the “National Anthem of Basement Blue Light Parties.” LOL. It’s pure lyrical & vocal genius, from a 10 year old, Clarence Burke Jr. And don’t forget the WICKED bassline from 8 year old, Keni Burke either on this song 🙂
NOTE #3: When Clarence performed at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention, he opened with “World of Fantasy” and then he announced; “This next song is just for Bob Davis. I don’t usually perform it live, but he might not let me get out of this place alive, if I don’t perform it tonight…” And with that he fired up the classic “Danger She’s a Stranger…”
RIP – Clarence Burke Jr
Danger She’s a Stranger (Memorial Day Memories)
For some reason earlier today I started playing some music by the Five Stairsteps. This is not an unusual thing for me to do, simply because the older I get, the more their music brings a smile to my face. It’s not just the awesome vocal harmonies of this talented group of siblings that makes me feel that way. Nor is it just the incredible lyrics sung in such a matter of fact manner, by young people who couldn’t possibly recognize the adult subject matter of the topics of the songs that they were singing. And it wasn’t just the incredible musicianship of this self contained band that would later become perhaps even more popular for their “funksmanship.”
It’s actually all of the above and none of the above. It’s mostly just pure nostalgia that gets me off about the Five Stairsteps. You see it’s simply (mostly) about my own memories of specific situations that I was involved in relative to the music of the Five Stairsteps.
“Danger She’s a Stranger” is a song that for me on a personal level as great as the music, the lyrics, and the singing is, is really a song that says more about myself than any of the other factors (music, the lyrics, and the singing).
You see it’s really about the situation and about how I am going to deal with it. It’s really all about meeting strangers. And when you’re a teenaged boy, regardless of just how confident you may want people to think that you are, the whole idea of meeting strangers (especially of the opposite sex), is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Could You Maybe
Have Some Love , For Me
If Ya Think So
Then Will I know
All my possibilities
DANGER….Ooo, Ooo, Ooo…”
What lyrics, eh?
You see, “Danger She’s a Stranger” is all about a situation and about just how you are going to react to it. And for me, going to those “blue light basement parties”, was 100 percent about “meeting strangers.”
The whole point was to not just “meet a stranger”, but to also come as close to having sex with that stranger as possible, without removing any clothing while doin the grind, and of course to “cop the phone number.”
So this is what we did as teenagers, roaming around the neighborhood, roaming around the city, going wherever we could, all in search of basement parties, where there were teenaged girls, that we didn’t know, who willing to let us “grind them up against a pole.” That was the objective and the reality was that the objective was usually achieved.
“Danger She’s a Stranger” is co-written by Clarence Burke Jr and Curtis Mayfield. It’s one of the greatest slow jams of all time, not only because of the fantastic vocal group harmonies, or the understated raw funkiness of the music or it’s haunting melody. It’s a great song because it provides real world words of advice for the “young man on the make.” And its advice coming directly from a fellow teenager named Clarence Burke Jr, Since Clarence Burke Jr. not only wrote “Danger She’s a Stranger”, but it is also his voice singing lead for the Five Stairsteps and presumably he has been “burned by meeting a stranger.” “Danger She’s a Stranger” was #16 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1967, however it’s chart ranking is of little consequence today. What matters today is the ongoing brilliance of this masterpiece and as I listen today, it’s easy to see just why this song is truly the anthem of every brotha whoever “crashed a party and grinded with some girl he had never met before.”
Of course, what Clarence Burke Jr. knew was that each and every one of those young ladies that one could meet inside of a dark basement, inside of a home where even the homeowner’s names were a mystery, wasn’t always “safe”, and was thus “dangerous.”
I don’t quite know why I’m listening to this song today and certainly I’m not sure why I’m writing about it today, on a day when there are so many other things that I could be writing about instead. However it is such a beautiful song, one thing is for certain, when I listen to “Danger She’s a Stranger”, I can’t listen to it just one time. So far I must have hit the repeat button on the remote control unit of my CD player a dozen or more times.
Everything about the song “Danger She’s a Stranger” by the Five Stairsteps is buried deep within my own personal musical DNA. I haven’t heard the song in over six months and yet right at this moment I can’t get enough of it.
My guess is because it’s Memorial Day weekend and at this moment, my thoughts aren’t of the Memorial Day of the war’s in Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, my thoughts are of Memorial Days from long ago in what now seems to be another universe, that I’m not exactly sure ever really existed. Because in that universe a young teenaged boy who wasn’t really as confident as he wanted everyone to think that he was, wanted nothing more to meet “strange girls”, grind them up against structural poles inside of dark & damp basements.
It was always on Memorial Day weekend along with Fourth of July weekend & Labor Day weekend, where I always stood the greatest chance of “meeting a stranger.” Someone visiting from out of town, it was “easy prey”, right?
Little did I know at that time, just how little I know, so today I just want to thank Clarence Burke Jr. for trying to help me to understand just how foolish I was way back then? He tried, and God bless him for trying, but it didn’t work for me or anyone else I knew. That’s because we didn’t really understand that whole “hunter get’s captured by the game” philosophy. We always opted to try and “meet a stranger.”
But now we do (don’t we?)
–“Men think that women want to hear what they have to say, actually women want to hear what they have to say, only with a deeper voice…” (Bill Cosby)
–Bob Davis (5/2009)
A Selective Song Analysis: Clarence Burke Jr
I want to talk for just a moment about just a few of the many songs that I personally dug by Clarence. Please note, “OOH CHILD” doesn’t appear on the list, get over it 🙂
Editor’s Note: The fantastic & funky drumming on many of the Five Stairsteps songs was originally done by our good friend Jerome “Big Foot” Brailey, who would later be inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Parliment-Funkadelic!
Invisible Man’s Band – All Night Thing
This MONSTER FUNK jam is today, probably the most famous song ever recorded by Clarence Burke Jr. Yup, today this song is probably even more famous than “OOH CHILD.” Yet most people who are fans of the song have no clue that it is him. Clarence, is of course the “Invisible Man,” with his family the Burke’s (Five Stairsteps).
–This song is an absolute FUNK BOMB and even today in 2013 it will still pack the floor at a dance club.
–Go to a wedding in 2013, in just about any community (white, black, hispanic, asian, gay, straight, etc.) and you are likely to hear the song played at the reception.
–Talk to any self respecting “crate diggin hip hop dj,” and they have this song on 12 inch vinyl in their DJ bag.
–And of course it’s a staple of the “club mix/dance party” radio shows broadcast every Saturday night in cities across the USA on terrestrial radio.
I always loved the iconic/ironic lyric; “OOH CHILD! It’s a party now.”
He performed this song for us at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention and had everyone there shakin their be-hinds…
One, two, three…
Waiting on the dance, To get started.
Hollywood stands, it’s jammed down
It’s a party now.
I wanna dance, I wanna dance, Everybody wanna dance, Move those bodies round
While the music spins, Get down, get down, get down. Get…
It’s gonna be an all night thing. It’s gonna be an all night thing. Baby, it’s an all night thing. It’s gonna be an all night thing.
Freaks on the floor. Freaks on the floor. All the freaks on the floor,
On a saturday night. Disco is explode. Strange freaky vibes
Flashing lights of red, Blue, yellow and green. It’s a funky scene.
Ready for the hit Get on your knees.
Yeah, yes it is. Uh huh. Baby… [skat]
Beat feet, stamp, jam, Move it on in. It’s a sheet freak.
Come on in. ’cause, I can’t go,
On such a hot date. Suga booga,
Would ya, could ya.
Move a little close, For you to hear
Don’t ya know? You got me shifting in fifth gear.
You look so fine. I want your number, In my book.
Gonna take you home with me, And get it on, All night long.
Stairsteps – Pasado
This is an absolutely gorgeous song.
–If you have ever heard it, you can never forget it.
–It sounds vaguely latin.
–It sounds vaguely jazzy.
–However the song is really neither.
It’s got the unmistakable vocal harmonies of the Five Stairsteps. There are flutes playing and they sound like angels 🙂
It’s from the “underground” album, never released on CD called “Second Resurrection.”
–The song is legendary among hardcore Five Stairsteps fans.
–I have gotten hundreds of requests over the years from Soul-Patrol readers to send them a copy of this song.
It is totally unlike any other song I have ever heard. Maybe a similar vibe to something like “Black Gold of the Sun?” (not “sound” but “vibe”)
To my knowledge it has only ever been performed live a few times. And I am quite proud to say that one of those times was at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention in Philadelphia. That was Clarence’s “special surprise” for us. People, who knew the story of Pasado, thought they had died and gone to heaven, when Clarence fired up “Pasado.”
The concert he put on for us @ the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention was one of the best live performances I have ever seen. By anybody. Ever…
–Do I have it on video? (of course I do)
–Will I ever put the hour long concert or any portion of it on the internet? (of course not, cuz Clarence asked me not to. He said, “this is just for the people who SHOWED UP!!)
–Maybe I will put some narration around it and show it as a “never to be released concert movie” at the next Soul-Patrol Convention in 2016? (or maybe not?)
And one of the (many) reasons why this concert was such a fantastic live performance, was Clarence’s inclusion of “Pasado”
Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa I’ve been all through this thing Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa I’ve been all through this thing You said our love would be ever so bright But I can’t afford to make the sacrifice Cause I, cause I been all through this thing Yeah baby
You kiss and hold me just the way I’d want you to
But when it all goes down you still remain untrue And I, and I been all through this thing
Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa I’ve been all through this thing No quiero saber nada Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa I’ve been all through this thing No me hables mas
First time we met we had a lovely start
Then we joined hands and said that we’d never part
But now I close my ears
Found out that you weren’t sincere I caught you there, been playing everywhere But you were never here when I needed you “Never here when I needed you”
— so I say Pasado por esa cosa
I’ve been all through this thing So I say, Pasado So I say — Pasado por esa cosa
I’ve been all through this thing
So I say — Pasado
No quiero saber nada No me hables mas Oye mulata mami mira Echa, echa te pa ya Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa
I’ve been all through this thing
Five Stairsteps – Don’t Waste Your Time
This is a truly subversive song. On the surface, it’s one of the few Five Stairsteps songs, that sounds like it’s a “bubblegum song.” It’s bright, bouncy, and sounds almost like a nursery rhyme. (Almost nauseatingly so….LOL)
That is till you listen closely to the lyrics. And you see that it’s one of the most
COLD BLOODED SONGS OF REJECTION I HAVE EVER HEARD.
This song never charted, however it is a major reason why hardcore Five Stairstep fans love the group so much. It is always featured on the Five Stairsteps compilations and treated as if it were a major hit song.
How did Clarence come to write a song with such a hardcore message, yet make it sound like it was a song from Romper Room? Was he rejected? Or did he reject someone else? I never got to ask him that question, so perhaps I will never find out.
However in my mind, this song is a perfect illustration of how his songwriting ability rivals that of Smokey Robinson.
Don’t waste your time My love is taken
You’ll easily find There’s none to spare
You’ll find another somewhere So don’t waste your time Don’t waste your time
Don’t waste your tears Your love has been shared With others this year
Would be such a shame To cry in vain So don’t waste your tears
Don’t waste your tears With respect my dear I’m warning you It’s said for me
You’re one love, for you But it’s time, my dear That you discover that I love another
And I tell you from the start now
Don’t waste your time My love is taken You’ll easily find
There’s none to spare
So don’t waste your time I see somewhere from ’round the station
That you don’t understand the situation You’re very sweet, yet I must confess
You would only be second best
Five Stairsteps – Come Back
One more (then I’ll shut up for a moment about the music of the Five Stairsteps)
I think that this was Clarence’s favorite Five Stairsteps song.
1. He used to refer to himself all of the time as “Mr. C.B.” and then say “I’m commin back Bob, just like the song.”
2. This is my own personal second favorite Stairsteps song, a close second to “Danger She’s a Stranger.” It’s one of the best “begging songs” ever. It’s a beautiful song (featuring great lyrics, beautiful music & angelic voices) that is one of many that I have on “permanent repeat” inside of my head. Back in another century…. I would press that “repeat button inside of my head” and play this song whenever I had “phucked up” a relationship and the “object of my desire,” had left me.
3. As some of you might recall from my story about meeting Clarence Burke Jr. for the first time, 3 different versions of this song appear on the Eleanor Grant album that he produced. Version 1 is Eleanor, w/Clarence backing here up on guitar doing a very tasty straight up cover of the original song. Version 2 is Eleanor & Clarence once again, but this time Eleanor changes the lyrics and the meaning. In this version it’s no longer teenaged puppy love, it’s Eleanor as an Erykah Baduish/Marlena Shawish type, who is demanding that “MR C.B. come back” and provide her with a serious round of “adult sexual healing.” Version 3 is Clarence’s beautiful Curtis Mayfieldeque guitar driven instrumental version of “COME BACK.”
4. And as you will recall from my story, Clarence is telling me that he is primed to make a career “come back,” and as a hardcore Five Stairsteps fan, I am somewhat skeptical, since I know that inside of my head these songs are done by the voice of a 10 – 15 year old and I am sitting across the table from a 52 year old man. How could his voice possibly sound as good? Then Clarence says to me “I’ll prove it to you RIGHT NOW Bob. Do you have that Eleanor Grant CD in your car?” I said; “of course I do.” He says to me; “BET, let’s go to your car.” So we walk out to the car & he tells me to put the CD in and forward it to the instrumental version of “Come Back,” from the Eleanor Grant album. I fast forward to the instrumental version of “Come Back,” and Clarence starts singing. And of course his voice sounds as rich and powerful as it did on the original recording. In fact once he starts, I also recognize that I am being treated to something that a hardcore Five Stairsteps fan could only dream of. A DAMN PRIVATE CONCERT w/THE LEAD SINGER OF THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS. (had I just died and gone to heaven or what???)
5. A few weeks ago (4/28), as a few of yall might recall, I was raving about a fantastic new recording that I needed to “bookmark,” but that I couldn’t tell you who it was by or what the song was. Well at this moment I feel compelled to tell you that it is a brand new remake of “COME BACK.” (more on THAT soon)
6. Here is how I described this new version; “It hurts because it is both familiar, yet distant at the same time. It hurts because it makes you think of days that were so sweet that you can taste the nectar. It makes me think of people, places & events from long ago. It revives my hope that I can experience those things again, since they really aren’t bound in time at all. Yet because those days were so long ago, you question if it ever really did happen at all?”
7. ….& God Bless whomever is playing the “bone thrustingly” erotic flute on the original recording!!!)
(Do ya think I LOVE the song “COME BACK,” or what????…..LOL)
OK….now I promise to stop talking about the musical genius of Clarence Burke Jr, for a little while, because I am starting to get really, really sad and I don’t feel like crying anymore than I have to on a holiday weekend. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I will hoist a few today, and every time I raise my glass it will be in honor of my friend, Clarence Burke Jr!!!!
I sure as hell wish that he could do just one last “comeback.” I will REALLY REALLY miss this brotha 🙁
Clarence performed the song for us at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention and had us all memorized. In fact I recall seeing a whole bunch of the ladies of Soul-Patrol “swooning” during Clarence’s performance of this song 🙂
Come back… Come back… Come back to me…Where have you gone now? Off with someone new?
If you really love me Let me be your fool Just come back… to me Come back to me
What have I done To make you feel this way? If I could stop crying I would have to say…
JUST COME BACK (to me) Come back, to me
I’m so mad about you Don’t know what to do without you Your always on my mind I dream of you all the time
So COME BACK (to me) Come back, to me
RIP – Clarence Burke Jr
The Ghost of John Lee Hooker
Anybody who knows me even just a little bit, knows that I am a huge fan of the Blues. People who do know me “just a little bit,” are always surprised by this. They think that Bob Davis “The Boy from New York City,” would hardly be interested in tha Blues. That’s because they think of the Blues as being strictly a “southern thang.” Or perhaps a “rural thang.” However if you get to know me a little bit better, a much clearer picture will begin to emerge.
When I first met Clarence Burke Jr, we immediately bonded. Of course, it started from a musical perspective, with me being such a huge fan of the body of music that he had created, that had been such a huge influence on my life. But during the course of our very first 10 hour meeting, there were three common things we shared that I think he recognized as being foundational and important.
1. Our fathers had both been “big city” Police Officers.
2. We both were in “business” with our siblings
As you might well imagine, we discussed these two topics often :
In 2010 when I went to see him perform live at the Key Club in Newark, on that rainy night, he warmly greeted me before the show. Clarence was such a character. He always had 1001 ideas, concepts, perspectives that he wanted to tell you about. Some of them serious, some of them just plain silly. You could always tell that his brain was always operating at “warp speed.” People who know me well, often make that same observation about me.
So before the show, Clarence was like; “Bob we gotta do this,” Bob we gotta do that,” Bob this is the first STEP,” Bob here is the next STEP,” “Bob I got more than FIVE STEPS,” etc.
Of course I smiles and then proceeded to give him my 1001 ideas, concepts, perspectives, etc.
Then he went on stage and proceeded to deliver a KILLER show. As I watched, I observed how Clarence Burke Jr. was dressed. He was wearing a “black on black on black suit.” And he topped it off with a “bowler” style hat. Which also was black. And with his guitar slung over his shoulder, I remarked to myself:
“HE LOOKS LIKE THE GHOST OF JOHN LEE HOOKER”
After the show of course Clarence asked me what I thought of the performance. And of course I verbally gave him a disgustingly detailed analysis of each song. He turned in a GREAT performance, of course, completely blowing away the audience. And then I said:
“AND ON TOP OF ALL OF THAT YA LOOKED LIKE THA BADD AZZED GHOST OF JOHN LEE HOOKER”
Clarence replied; “that’s no accident mah brotha, that’s by design, and you are probably one of the few people who could possibly connect those mo fo dots…”
So the next time you see me sign off of one of my postings with the phrase:
“When I grow up I wanna be like John Lee Hooker.”
Know for sure that I mean that for real. Know for a fact that is one of my goals.
But also know that was one of Clarence Burke Jr.s goals. And know for a fact that while he may not have achieved some of the goals that he aspired to in life.
I can tell you for a fact:
“CLARENCE BURKE JR. GREW UP TO BE LIKE JOHN LEE HOOKER.”
And Bob Davis is gonna miss the hell out of Clarence Burke Jr.