Burke died Sunday — a day after his birthday — in Marietta, where he lived, said Joe Marno, his friend and manager.
The cause of his death was not disclosed.
Formed in Chicago in 1965, the Five Stairsteps included Burke, three of his brothers and a sister. They owed their name to their mother, who said that they looked like stairsteps when they stood beside each other in order of age, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Burke, the eldest brother, was the group’s producer and choreographer, played guitar and wrote many of the songs. He wrote the group’s first single, “You Waited Too Long.” He was not yet 17 when it rose to No. 6 on Billboard’s R&B charts in 1966.
Other hits included “World of Fantasy,” “Don’t Change Your Love“ and ”From Us to You.”
However, the group’s biggest hit was 1970’s “O-o-h Child,” written by Stan Vincent. Its signature refrain croons “o-o-h child” and promises that “things are gonna get easier.”
The song has been covered many times and has repeatedly been used in movies and TV shows.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 402 on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
The group disbanded in the late 1970s but the brothers briefly reformed as the Invisible Man’s Band and had a 1980 success with the dance single “All Night Thing.”
In recent years, Burke performed solo concerts and continued to record with family and friends, according to a family memorial.