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Category 9: Short-form, well-known regional figure
Robert "Squirrel" Lester
Robert "Squirrel" Lester was a troubadour of slow dances and long kisses whose fans told him he was partly responsible for the births of their children.
The silky-voiced singer with the internationally renowned Chicago vocal group the Chi-Lites died Thursday of cancer at Roseland Hospital. He was 67.
He was born in McComb, Miss., where his tree-climbing ability earned him the nickname "Squirrel." He went on to attend Hyde Park High School in Chicago.
"He's one of the prettiest tenors we have seen in the world," said Chi-Lites leader Marshall Thompson, who announced his death. He performed with Mr. Lester for more than 50 years.
Mr. Lester was with the singing group the Chanteurs in the 1950s. The group morphed into the Hi-Lites and then the Chi-Lites.
Their soaring harmonies contrasted with the gritty stylings coming out of other percolators of soul, like Memphis' Stax Records.
Their biggest '70s hits, "Oh Girl" and "Have You Seen Her" -- penned by Chi-Lite Eugene Record -- made women swoon.
The second tenor's death drew sadness and sympathy from many soul greats.
"He was one of the dearest people in the business," Sam Moore said in a statement released through his wife, Joyce.
"Another artist from this generation is gone, and along with it, just another piece of the culture and another little piece of the pride this era created."
Sam Moore's electrifying call-and-response with partner Dave Prater in the group Sam and Dave cemented his place in the soul pantheon.
"They were just one of the wonderful groups, like the Temptations and the O'Jays," said Supreme Mary Wilson, who crossed paths with the Chi-Lites on the "chitlin' circuit" that hit Chicago's Regal Theater, New York's Apollo and Philadelphia's Uptown.
Motown's Martha Reeves met Mr. Lester in 1962 while playing the Regal. She recalled sing-offs where the Chi-Lites would try and outbelt and outdress the Temptations, all in fun.
"They were always kind to us," she said. They were good to her back-up singers, the Vandellas. "They always welcomed us to Chicago. I think his personality onstage was profound. I see his smile and his seriousness, too, and he was always on top of the routines as if he made it up himself."
"They were one of my favorite groups," said Rosalind Holmes, of the Vandellas. "The thing I think about most with the Chi-Lites was their harmony, and it was real pretty."
"Squirrel is one of those guys who had a beautiful voice, a beautiful soul -- and a lot of it came out in his music," said Cook County Commissioner and soul singer Jerry "Iceman" Butler. "The emotions of his life came out in his songs."
"The contribution they made to America and the world are just wonderful," said Sonny Turner, lead singer of the Platters.
The Chi-Lites toured the world, including stops in England, Germany, Hawaii, Japan and Singapore.
"They were able to cross over barriers" between black and white song charts and audiences, said Bob Crosby, president of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pa.
"What I did notice was his love for the people that he performed for, and his love for being on that stage and getting his message across to the ears of the listeners," said Tony Butala, founder of the group the Lettermen and chair of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. "He had that magic."
He also had cool, Thompson said. "It was the way he walked, and he had that Elvis Presley look," he said.
Chi-Lites hits continue to be sampled. Beyonce and Jay-Z used the horns from "Are You My Woman" for "Crazy in Love," and Jay-Z's "December 4th'' samples "That's How Long." Fantasia sampled "There'll Never Be Any Peace" on her controversial "Baby Mama." M.C. Hammer used "Have You Seen Her" and Paul Young remade "Oh Girl."
Funeral arrangements were pending.