A Northwest singer whose unintelligible vocals are as familiar to you as your own right hand has died.
If you’ve ever been to a Mariners game, seen National Lampoon’s Animal House, or listened to classic rock radio, you’ve heard The Kingsmen’s 1963 hit version of “Louie, Louie,” the song written by Richard Berry. Kingsmen vocalist Jack Ely died this week in Redmond, Ore., at age 71.
The “Louie, Louie” lyrics remain indecipherable to most listeners, because Ely – still a teenager – had just had his braces tightened before the Portland recording session and couldn’t enunciate clearly, according to The Oregonian.
The Kingsmen record shot up to No. 2 nationally and later spawned an estimated 1,600 cover versions. In 1985, legislation in Olympia proposed that “Louie, Louie” replace “Washington My Home” as Washington’s official state song. The effort passed in the Senate but died in the House.
Baseball fans can hear Ely wail “Louie, Louie” during the 7th-inning stretch of all Seattle Mariners home games.