Friday, October 17, 2008

Levi Stubbs, 1936-2008. R.I.P.

Levi Stubbs, the lead singer of the Motown group The Four Tops, died today at his home in Detroit. He was 72 years old. Stubbs had been in poor health in recent years. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1995. However, he continued to perform until he was incapacitated by a stroke in 2000.

Suffice it to say, I regret never having seen the Four Tops, particularly Stubbs perform in concert.

The Four Tops came together in 1954 and the original four members - Stubbs, Obie Benson, Lawrence Payton and Abdul "Duke" Fakir remained together for 43 years until Payton's death in 1997. Benson died in 2005. Fakir remains the only surviving member and ironically he was the oldest member of the group.

The Four Tops were at the top of the charts between 1964 and 1967. They are best remembered for such hits as "Reach Out I'll Be There", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)", "Baby I Need Your Loving", "Standing In The Shadows Love" and "Bernadette". All of those songs were written by the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. However, the Four Tops also went beyond the Motown sound and covered the Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee" and Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter". Their last hit was "Ain't No Woman Like The One I Got" which was released in 1973.

My favorite Four Tops song is one that wasn't a hit in the U.S. but was a Top 3 hit in Britain in 1971. "A Simple Game" was a collaboration between them and the kings of progressive rock, The Moody Blues. It was originally a Moody Blues song that was re-arranged for the vocal talents of the Four Tops. In additon to arrangements, the Moody Blues also did backing vocals on "A Simple Game." You can listen to it at

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