The Chi-Lites' Robert "Squirrel" Lester dies

Chi-LitesJanuary 22, 2010 - We are very sorry to inform SoulTrackers that Robert "Squirrel" Lester, who was an integral part of the great Chi-Lites for over four decades, has died. He was an excellent, if often underrated, singer and performer, and was an important part of the group's long success.

We received the following note from Chi-Lites leader Marshall Thompson:

Chi-LitesJanuary 22, 2010 - We are very sorry to inform SoulTrackers that Robert "Squirrel" Lester, who was an integral part of the great Chi-Lites for over four decades, has died. He was an excellent, if often underrated, singer and performer, and was an important part of the group's long success.

We received the following note from Chi-Lites leader Marshall Thompson:

Today I am mourning the loss of my dear partner and friend, Robert "Squirrel" Lester.  He and I have been performing together for the past 50 years and now I am facing the reality that my friend has left me behind.  I pray for peace to his family, friends and to each of you.  I also ask that you include me in your prayers as I attempt to accept his passing, knowing that after a short illness, he is no longer suffering and has made his final journey.  He will remain in my heart and can never be replaced.         

Marshall Thompson, leader of The Chi-Lites.

 

Like many popular soul groups of the 60s and 70s, the Chi-Lites found each other as teens, singing together and apart in various groups in their native Chicago until joining together as the Hi-Lites in the mid 60s. By the time they signed with the local Brunswick label in the late 60s, they had added a "C" and become the Chi-Lites. The Chi-Lites marriage with Brunswick bore fruit quickly, as they had their first R&B hit in 1968 with the sweet ballad, "Give It Away."

While their early Brunswick songs were typical of the Smokey-influenced soul group sound of the late 60s, over time the Chi-Lites developed their own unique sound around the writing and production of lead singer Eugene Record. An immense talent, Record distinguished the Chi-Lites from other silky soul groups like the Stylistics and Blue Magic by balancing sweet soul ballads about loneliness and vulnerability with funky thumpers about race relations and social justice. In retrospect, how could an album boast the then-radical "Give More Power to the People" alongside the almost saccharine love song, "I Want to Pay You Back?"

The Chi-Lites moved from "soul superstars" to simply superstars in 1972, as two group ballads rocketed to the top of the charts and became among the most memorable songs of the decade. "Have You Seen Her," with its sad opening monologue, took the pop world by storm, only to be topped by the forlorn harmonica lead and impeccable harmonies of the group's greatest song, "Oh Girl." ...read more

 

 
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