For 35 years, Ellis lead the disco group The Trammps to success as their lead singer putting out eight albums from 1975 to 1980. The group enjoyed chart popularity a multitude of hits, but "Disco Inferno" was the their greatest success.
Their hugely popular song and even more popular refrain, "burn, baby, burn," sent the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack to new heights -- selling an astounding 15 million copies, reports People. At one time, it was the highest selling album of all time.
Ellis kept the music alive until he retired in 2010.
He was survived by his wife, Beverly; daughter, Erika Stinson; son, James III; three brothers; a sister; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is set for next week in Charlotte, North Carolina.