OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — 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.

According to reports, Stevens died Tuesday after a short battle with cancer. Stevens joined the band in 1969 and sang lead on the group’s first two albums, including on the hit songs “Sparkling in the Sand” and “You’re Still a Young Man.”

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

In a message posted on the band’s Facebook page , current bandleader Emilio Castillo called Stevens a soulful singer who had a strong personality.

“I remember talking with him when he was released and I was skeptical about his ‘prison salvation’ experience,” Castillo posted Tuesday. “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.”

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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