OAKLAND, Calif. — Rick Stevens, the former lead singer of Oakland’s Tower of Power rhythm and blues band who spent 36 years in prison, has died. He was 77.

Stevens’ son and manager, Clarence Maloney, confirmed to KTVU-TV in San Francisco that Stevens died Tuesday after a short battle with cancer.

Current band leader Emilio Castillo also confirmed the news in a post on the band’s Facebook page

“Rick Stevens went to heaven today to be with the Lord whom he loved with all his heart,” Castillo said in his long post. “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.” 

A separate Facebook page for Stevens and another Oakland-area band, Love Power, also confirmed the musician’s death.

“Rick passed away this morning a few hours ago,” wrote drummer Amado Tuazon. “On behalf of Love Power, Tower of Power and all his friends, family, fans, we will love you forever in our hearts.”

Stevens joined the band in 1969 and sang lead on some of the band’s biggest hits.

“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,” Castillo wrote. 

But Stevens was convicted of murder for killing three people in 1976 during a drug deal gone wrong. He was paroled in 2012.

“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,” Castillo wrote. “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.”

Castillo wrote that Stevens “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…