The Five Stairsteps, known as “The First Family of Soul” and later “The Invisible Man’s Band”, was an American Chicago soul group made up of five of Betty and Clarence Burke Sr.’s six children: Alohe Jean, Clarence Jr., James, Dennis, and Kenneth “Keni”, and briefly, Cubie. They are best known for the 1970 song “O-o-h Child”, listed at #402 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“O-o-h Child” is a 1970 single recorded by Chicago soul family group the Five Stairsteps and released on the Buddah label. The Five Stairsteps had previous peripheral success recording in Chicago with Curtis Mayfield; when Mayfield’s workload precluded his continuing to work with the group they were reassigned to Stan Vincent, an in-house producer for Buddah Records, who had recently scored a Top Ten hit with the Lou Christie single “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”. The Five Stairsteps’ debut collaboration with Vincent was originally formatted with the group’s rendition of “Dear Prudence” as the A-side with Vincent’s original composition “O-o-h Child” as B-side. However, “O-o-h Child” broke out in the key markets of Philadelphia and Detroit to rise as high as #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1970. The track’s R&B chart impact was more muted with a #14 peak, although “O-o-h Child” is now regarded as a “soft soul” classic. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 21 song of 1970.
The Five Stairsteps’ only pop Top 40 hit, “O-o-h Child” would be the group’s last R&B top 40 hit (they had several top 40 R&B hits in the 1960s) until 1976’s “From Us to You”. Included on the band’s The Stairsteps album from 1970, it has become the Stairsteps’ signature song and has inspired more than twenty covers since its release. The song featured various members, including lone female member and eldest sister Alohe, brothers Keni, Dennis, James, lead singer Clarence Burke, Jr. singing in various parts of the song, and also drummer Jerome Brailey on the original recording.
The lyrics tell the listener that “things are gonna get easier” in times of strife. The song’s uplifting message helped it to become popular among pop and rhythm and blues audiences when it was released.