Cubie Burke was a singer, dancer, actor, and choreographer who rose to fame as a member of the soul group The Five Stairsteps in the 1960s and 1970s. He was known for his energetic and graceful dancing skills, which earned him the nickname “The Human Tornado”. He also pursued a solo career in music and dance, working with various artists and shows. He died on May 14, 2014, at the age of 49, leaving behind a legacy of talent and creativity. But what was the cause of his death? And how did he live his life before his untimely demise?
Early Life and Career with The Five Stairsteps
Cubie Burke was born on November 8, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois, as the youngest of six children of Betty and Clarence Burke Sr. His father was a detective for the Chicago Police Department and his mother was a homemaker. He had five siblings: Alohe, Clarence Jr., James, Dennis, and Kenneth (Keni). All of them were musically inclined and formed a vocal group called The Five Stairsteps, named by their mother who thought they looked like stair steps when lined up according to their age. The group was influenced by their neighbor and family friend Fred Cash of The Impressions, who introduced them to Curtis Mayfield. They signed to Mayfield’s Windy City imprint, which was distributed by the Philadelphia-based Cameo Parkway record label. Their first single was “You Waited Too Long” in 1966, which reached number 16 on the Billboard R&B chart.
Cubie Burke joined the group when he was three years old, and they became The Five Stairsteps & Cubie. He occasionally sang with the group, but it was his dancing that brought the applause. He was often featured in the front of the stage, spinning, flipping, and sliding across the floor. He was inspired by dancers like James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Fred Astaire. The group recorded several albums and singles, including their biggest hit “O-o-h Child” in 1970, which was listed at number 402 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The group was dubbed “The First Family of Soul” and later “The Invisible Man’s Band” by the media. They toured with The Impressions and other soul acts, and appeared on TV shows like Soul Train, American Bandstand, and The Ed Sullivan Show.
Solo Career and Dance Achievements
Cubie Burke left the group in the late 1970s to pursue a solo career in music and dance. He recorded a single “Down for Double” in 1982, but never finished an album or recorded many of the songs he had written. He then focused on his dance skills, and joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem, where he performed classical ballet and modern dance. He also worked with The Atlanta Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and various Las Vegas theatrical shows. He performed at the Olympic closing ceremonies in Barcelona and Los Angeles, and choreographed the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards. He also danced with Prince, and appeared in Clairol commercials.
As an actor, Cubie Burke appeared in the TV series Unsolved Mysteries: Season 9 and in the movie The Five Heartbeats. He also founded a production company called QBiquity Productions in 1997, where he produced and directed music videos, documentaries, and commercials.
Cause of Death and Legacy
Cubie Burke died on May 14, 2014, in Smyrna, Georgia, at the age of 49. According to Soul and Jazz and Funk, his death was believed to be a result of a brain injury he had suffered some years ago. His daughter, Decoda, said that he had fallen and hit his head in 2008, and had been in and out of hospitals since then. He was survived by his daughter, granddaughter, parents, and siblings.
Cubie Burke was remembered by his fans and peers as a talented and versatile performer, who brought joy and energy to the stage. He was also a loving and caring father, son, brother, and friend. He left behind a legacy of soulful music and dance, which inspired many generations of artists. He was a human tornado, who spun his way into the hearts of many.