Rick Stevens, who fronted Tower of Power in their early days, has died. He was 77.

“September 5, 2017 - my beloved Rick passed away this morning after a brief struggle with liver cancer, surrounded by his loving family,” his wife, Georgina Stevenson, wrote on his website. “For 41 years Rick was the biggest and best part of my life; I will miss him very much, and love him forever.”

Stevens joined the Oakland-based group in 1969, replacing Rufus Miller in time to sing only one track, “Sparkling in the Sand” on their 1970 debut, East Bay Grease. But he made his mark on the follow-up, Bump City, two years later. “You’re Still a Young Man” peaked at No. 29 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and No. 24 on the R&B chart, while “Down to the Nightclub” reached No. 66 on the Hot 100.

However, he parted ways with them while working on their next record, Tower of Power. The vocals he had already recorded for future classics like “What Is Hip” and “So Very Hard to Go” — their biggest hit at No. 17 — were erased in favor of those by Larry Williams, whom Stevens introduced to the band.

Unfortunately he wound up being addicted to drugs and, in 1976, during a deal that went wrong. Stevens shot and killed three men. He was sentenced to life in prison and, in 2012, was released on parole. He then resumed his career, forming Rick Stevens & Love Power, which regularly played in Northern California. On Jan. 30, 2013, he sat in with Tower of Power for the first time since his original departure, singing “You’re Still a Young Man.”

"Rick Stevens went to heaven today to be with the Lord whom he loved with all his heart,” Tower of Power co-founder Emilio Castillo wrote on the band’s Facebook page. “Rick was an extremely soulful singer and entertainer who had an engaging personality and a strong faith which he shared with all he came in contact with. He sang on our first two recordings and his rendition of "Sparkling In The Sand" and "You're Still A Young Man" were timeless classics that set our career in motion. After leaving the band he did some things that caused him to be imprisoned for around 37 years but the Lord had other plans for Rick. I remember talking with him when he was released and I was skeptical about his ‘prison salvation’ experience. I told him that I really hoped he would take advantage of the tremendous opportunity that God had given him to help people to avoid the pitfalls he had fallen into. He went above and beyond the call of duty and carried his message of faith and redemption to many. The first time he sat in with us, after his release from prison, was a ‘once in a lifetime’ emotional experience for all of us. We loved him and we'll miss him. I have faith that I'll see him in heaven someday and together we'll worship and glorify God together for eternity. Rick is there right now enjoying it!!!"

Rocker Deaths: Artists We Lost in 2017

More From 100.7 KOOL FM