BANGOR, Maine — Chances are that if you are a Mainer of a certain age, you have heard Rick Pinette and the Maine-based band Oak either on the radio or live at some of the many venues he played here in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Pinette, 63, died unexpectedly on Sunday at Morningside Church in Blue Eye, Missouri, where he was lead pastor, according to his obituary.
Though he grew up in Berlin, New Hampshire, Pinette lived in the southern Maine community of Windham during the height of Oak’s fame, according to published reports.
In Maine and New England, Pinette perhaps was best known for being the lead singer and keyboard player for the Maine band Oak, which had three hits that made the Billboard Hot 100 list in 1979 through 1981, namely “This is Love, “Set the Night on Fire” and “King of the Hill,” the latter climbing to No. 36 on the American Top Billboard’s Top 40 list.
In a post on 95.7 FM’s website, DJ Fred noted that before the band officially broke up, Oak played a farewell concert at the Bangor Auditorium in 1981. He said the late Bill Chinnock was the opening act.
A 1970 graduate of Berlin High School in New Hampshire, Pinette began his career in music in the regional bar scene. He continued, however, to appear at venues throughout New England, including in Maine, where he performed at a variety of venues, including proms and fundraisers, and was a motivational speaker, according to Bangor Daily News archives.
Local media personality Mike Dow, who hosts a morning show on Big 104 FM with Deb Neuman and is a contributing music writer for the Maine Edge, recalled when the hit “King of the Hill” came out. He was a young DJ at the time.
“I remember the station in Houlton, which is the one that I started out on, played it a lot,” he said.
“Oak played all over the place for a number of years and then Rick had his own band … He continued to perform. I think people loved him because he was not only a great performer, but his voice was just — wow!
“He had one of those voices, kind of like Brad Delp of Boston. Such an incredible range,” Dow said.
Oak was “a good example of a ‘pop rock’ group that really focused on trying to make their songs as good as possible. Another group and singer from around that time that you could compare them to might even be The Babys, with John Waite,” who went on to a successful solo career, Dow said.
Pinette, like Waite, was known as “the voice” of the band.
Dow said he only got to see Pinette perform live once — at his Houlton High School prom in 1982.
“It was pretty cool because he was still a big deal at that time,” Dow said.
Pinette then went on to become a pastor and member of the “Jim Bakker Show” Morningside Band, according to a tribute that Bakker posted on the “Jim Bakker Show” website.
“Morningside will truly miss this amazing man of God! And I will miss my friend,” Bakker wrote. “But let us rejoice together in knowing Pastor Rick Pinette, our wonderful and faithful friend is with Jesus!”
Pinette is survived by his wife, Cheryl Pinette, and his daughter, Olivia Pinette, both of Blue Eye, Missouri.
A celebration of Pinette’s life is set for 4 p.m. Friday at Morningside Church at 180 Grace Chapel Road in Blue Eye, Missouri.
The celebration will be streamed live on the church’s website.