Les Emmerson, singer / songwriter from the 70’s group Five Man Electrical Band, died at the age of 77


Emmersons, 1970s group singer and songwriter Five-man electric band which had a massive radio hit from 1971 with the counterculture anthem “Draw,” died on December 10 of COVID-19 at a hospital in his native Ottawa. He was 77.

His death was announced by his wife Monik Emmerson to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She told the CBC that her husband had been double-vaccinated but suffered from underlying health problems. The singer received COVID last month.

Photo by the Canadian rock group Five Man Electrical Band, circa 1969.
(Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns)

With his irresistible chorus (“Sign, sign / Everywhere a sign / Blockin ‘out the scenery / Breakin’ my mind”) and quirky humor (“So I took my hat off and said: Imagine that / Huh, me workin ‘for you! “),” Signs “was recorded by the Canadian band at the height of the hippie movement in 1970, and became an international summer hit the year after a shorter three-minute version was released.

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The song reached # 3 on the Billboard singles chart and eventually sold more than 1.5 million copies.

(L to H) Monik Emmerson, Les Emmerson and Kristina Emmerson will attend the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala at the Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel in Toronto, Canada on February 29, 2008.

(L to H) Monik Emmerson, Les Emmerson and Kristina Emmerson will attend the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala at the Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel in Toronto, Canada on February 29, 2008.
(Photo by George Pimentel / WireImage)

The group’s keyboardist Ted Gerow told CBC: “Suddenly Seattle and that area broke down and it just kept spreading.”

Emmerson was inspired to write the song during a road trip along California’s Route 66 when he noticed the many billboards tarnishing the scenic views.

Although Five Man Electrical Band wanted other hits in Canada, “Signs” was the group’s only international hit and is still a staple of oldies radio even today. In 2005, Fatboy Slim sampled the song in his “Don’t Let the Man Get You Down”.



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