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Cubie Burke: A Memorial PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 16 May 2014 21:33

Cubie Burke passed away Wednesday May, 14, 2014. He was 49. Cubie was a member of the First Family of Soul, known as the 5 Stairsteps & Cubie. He was a professional dancer, singer, song writer, actor, Choreographer and teacher at QBiquity Productions. The 5 Stairsteps & Cubie were made up of Alohe (Rami), Clarence Jr., James, Dennis, Kenneth (Keni), and Cubie. Cubie Burke’s debut in show business occurred at 16 months old with the Five Stairsteps at Chicago’s Regal Theater.  He would appear on stage in the early days with his siblings the Five Stairsteps dancing and performing with them. Besides the Stairsteps, Cubie also performed with Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Prince. Cubie also spoke French, German and Spanish and some Italian.

In a 2011 interview that I had with Cubie and his brother Clarence Burke Jr., they had reminisced about a gig when Clarence was supposed to bring Cubie out on stage. Clarence Jr. had said that the place went wild when Cubie came out and it was total mayhem. He said “it was a riot.” The fans started jumping on stage and they picked up the entire Burke group including Cubie. The out of control fans put them on their shoulders and started jumping around and singing. Clarence had said “Everybody loved Cubie, they went crazy over Cubie.”[i]

Cubie mentioned that he had recently compiled a list of people who had been influential in his life. One was Clarence and as he had gotten older, he said that he really appreciated his presence. “Clarence has been a leader for me; he was not only a great guy, but a great pioneer in music.” Clarence responded “Now, I look to you, my youngest brother. It goes back around. I look at Cubie as one of the greats, what I have seen out there. There are a lot of bad people out there. I include my brother of what I know of him, his abilities… he is definitely one of them for sure. If he wasn’t my brother, I would say that’s a bad dude; his name is Cubie! He’s awesome. He did this all on his own without the Stairsteps”. Cubie further stated “I am not just a dancer; I am a classical dancer, which makes me a classical artist. Growing up with artists, I could not appreciate the work of other people. I watched my brothers and my sister; The Stairsteps on YouTube recently as they danced and came up to the microphone one after the other. My brothers and my sister were artists, they were working hard and were not trying to out due each other, they were performers. I really appreciated what it was to be a Stairstep.” Also, during the interview Cubie gave homage to the person that he said mentored him. It was song writer and producer Clyde Otis “.[ii]

Cubie Burke first appears on record on the 1967 album Jimmy Bishop – On Stage Live At The Nixon Theater performing with the Stairsteps. The group performed Don't Waste Your Time and Something’s Missing. His photograph appeared with the group on the 1968 Buddah LP Our Family Portrait by The 5 Stairsteps & Cubie. The album included the track which included a 3 year old Cubie titled New Dance Craze.  It would be released as the B side of their first Curtom single titled Don't Change Your Love. Curtis Mayfield produced their next album in 1968/1969 titled Love's Happening. The New Dance Craze was also included on this album. The 5 Stairsteps & Cubie released a total of five singles on Curtom Records. Cubie’s voice also appeared on the 1970 Buddah LP called Stairsteps by the Five Stairsteps on the track Vice The Lights. Cubie would appear with the Five Stairsteps on a variety of television shows like The Merv Griffin Show in 1968 and The Barbara McNair Show in 1971.

Cubie Burke grew up in Englewood NJ, graduating from high school there. At the age of 15 he was invited by a friend named Shelly to try dance lessons and then enrolled in classes. He began working with a few local choirs and that association led to an audition with the Dance Theater of Harlem.  He received a full scholarship to the Dance Theater of Harlem at the age of 16. Cubie began dancing with the Dance Theater of Harlem professionally at the age of 17. He is quoted as saying “What I liked about ballet that interested me was that it was so detailed. I was interested in that. They wanted me to take tap classes. I didn’t take the classes, but I wish that had I had now.” He also was a professional dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theater of Harlem, with Complexions — A Concept in Dance and the Atlanta Ballet. He was the only African American lead dancer that the Atlanta Ballet has ever had.[iii] He appeared as a dancer and Interviewee in the 2008 film Wolf Trap's Face of America. He also is a contributor to the 1999 film Choreography by Esaias Johnson, a 2000 film titled Tributary which included the New York City Ballet and the Dance Theater of Harlem, and is a performer in the 1997 film Dance Esaias : Esaias Johnson, choreographer.

He performed at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona Spain. He also performed for Prince’s company Paisley Park studios.  He also was the choreographer for the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on March 8, 1997. He choreographed the opening number for the Isley Brothers. In addition to that Cubie choreographed routines for the Atlanta Hawks organization.

Cubie’s solo recording debut occurred in 1982 with the release of the single Down for Double on the Rissa Chrissa label. A full album was never recorded, because of the breakup of the record company. Cubie then returned his energy back to dance. He was also a songwriter and the names of the compositions are Fix Me, which is about anything about ourselves that we would want to be fixed, Beautiful Holy; which is about God, who is holy, Every Now and Then; which is a break up song, No Turning Back; which is a song about not giving up, Together Again; which is dedicated to the families of the U.S. troops plus Magenta and Mother of Love also originals. All of these songs are unreleased and were copy written in 2011. The recordings made their debut on The Funk Show in January 2012. Cubie also recorded a song with the Invisible Mans Band that has never released.

As an actor Cubie appeared in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries: Season 9, Episode 20; called Unexplained Death: Tupac Shakur (aired 14 Mar. 1997). His character had been an eyewitness to the murder of Tupac Shakur. The hit by of Tupac Shakur titled Keep Ya Head Up was a cover of Ooh Child by the Five Stairsteps. Cubie was also founder of his production company in 1997 called QBiquity Productions.

Cubie Burke is survived by his daughter Decoda Kareem, granddaughter Aaliyah Kareem, his mother Betty Burke, father Clarence Burke, siblings Rami (Alohe Burke), James Burke, Dennis Burke, Kenneth Burke plus other family members, friends and fans.

 

Howard Burchette



[i] Telephone Interview of Cubie Burke and Clarence Burke Jr. by Howard Burchette, January 10, 2011; production studio of 90.7 WNCU FM, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC

[ii] Telephone Interview of Cubie Burke and Clarence Burke Jr. by Howard Burchette, January 10, 2011; production studio of 90.7 WNCU FM, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC

[iii] Telephone Interview with Cubie Burke by Howard Burchette, August 3, 2011; production studio of 90.7 WNCU FM, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 09:18