Rick Pinette, lead singer of one of the first Maine-based rock bands to gain a major radio hit, died unexpectedly Sunday in Missouri. He was 63.

As the lead singer of the band Oak, Pinette’s soaring vocals helped propel the song “King of the Hill” to number 36 on the Billboard singles chart in 1980. The song spent 14 weeks on the charts. Several other songs by the band got radio airplay as well, including “This Is Love” and “Set the Night on Fire.”

Pinette grew up in Berlin, New Hampshire, and graduated from Berlin High School in 1970, according to his obituary. In the early 1970s Pinette and other Oak members were based in southern Maine. They played at Old Orchard Beach clubs and other local venues, before being signed to a recording contract by Mercury Records.

At one point Oak members were living together in a house in South Portland, said Nick Noiseux, who played in the band around 1974.

Noiseux, who owns Midtown Music in Biddeford, said Oak was more of an “art rock” band when he played with them. Their hit records had more of a mainstream pop-rock sound.

Noiseux said Pinette played guitar and keyboards in the band, wrote songs and sang lead. No matter what kind of songs the band was playing, Pinette’s vocal talent and range were always apparent, Noiseux said.


“He was just a great, dynamic vocalist,” Noiseux said. “He sang with a lot of passion. A real gutsy voice, and he could really hit the high notes.”

Pinette again spent time in Maine for a while after Oak’s success, and performed on his own and with various musicians.

Pinette was a born-again Christian and worked as a pastor through his Rick Pinette Ministries, according to the organization’s website. He died Sunday at Morningside Church in Blue Eye, Missouri, where he was lead pastor, according to his obituary. A celebration of his life is scheduled to take place at the church on Friday.

A biography of Pinette on his website said that he got more deeply involved with his Christian faith while bed-ridden after injuring himself in a fall, and after falling into a “deep depression” with his recording successes behind him. He and his wife, Cheryl, moved to Florida at that time. Pinette began singing and speaking at schools and eventually became a church pastor.

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