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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Legendary Group: The Four Tops


Formed 1956, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.

Levi Stubbs (b. Levi Stubbles, 6th June 1936, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. d. 17th October 2008, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.)

Renaldo 'Obie' Benson (b. 14th June 1936, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. d. 1st July 2005, Harper Hospital, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.)

Lawrence Payton (b. 2nd March 1938, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A, d. 20th June 1997)

and Abdul 'Duke' Fakir (b. 26th December 1935, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.)

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The Four Tops were formed, under that name, in 1956 in Detroit, Michigan, although two years prior to that they had sang at a party together in the town.

All of the group members attended Detroit-area high schools.

Levi Stubbs and Abdul 'Duke' Fakir attended Pershing, and met Northern students Renaldo 'Obie' Benson and Lawrence Payton at a friend's birthday party.

It was at this party where the quartet first sang together.

In those preceding years they called themselves the Four Aims, as early as 1953, changing their name in 1956 to the Four Tops.

As the Four Aims, they sang Jazz Standards, converting to an R & B sound with the name change.

They changed their name to the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the group the Ames Brothers.

Lawrence Payton's cousin Roquel Davis helped them get an audition with Chess Records in 1956, where they recorded one single entitled 'Kiss Me Baby'.

The Four Tops also recorded for the Red Top, Columbia (where they recorded 'Ain't That Love' in 1960) and Riverside imprints between 1958 and 1962.

In 1963, the group were then signed to the Motown jazz subsidiary Workshop.

In 1964, they recorded an album entitled 'Breaking Through', which wasn't released and Berry Gordy decided to put the group in the songwriting hands of the Holland / Dozier / Holland writing and production team.

Instant success followed with the initial release, with the new collaboration, in the form of 'Baby I Need Your Loving'.

The song reached the Top 20 in the States.

In 1965, they released 'I Can't Help Myself', which went straight to the top of the charts, and the success continued for the group.

For two more years, the Tops and the writing team had continued success, with 'Reach Out I'll Be There' making the top spot in the charts both sides of the Atlantic in 1966.

The Four Tops also charted with the songs 'Bernadette' and 'It's The Same Old Song'.

By 1967, the groups sound diversified, however, they still charted with Left Banke's 'Walk Away Renee' and Tim Hardin's 'If I Were A Carpenter'.

When the Holland / Dozier / Holland writing team left the Motown stable to form the Invictus imprint, the Four Tops success was placed on the backburner, however, they teamed up with the various producers / writers such as Frank Wilson and Smokey Robinson.

In 1970, they charted again with the Tommy Edwards song 'It's All In The Game', and the ballad 'Still Waters (Run Deep)'.

Also in 1970, they teamed up with The Supremes for the first of three albums together.

They also had a hit in 1971 with the Jim Webb song 'MacArthur Park'.

Renaldo 'Obie' Benson co-wrote Marvin Gaye's classic song 'What's Going On' that same year.

One final album was released for the Motown label entitled 'Nature Planned it' in 1972.

Later that year, the Four Tops left Motown, following the release of the single 'A Simple Game'.

This was prompted by Motown's relocation to California from Detroit in 1972.

They group signed to the ABC / Dunhill Records imprint, where they charted with the song 'Are You Man Enough', taken from the movie soundtrack 'Shaft In Africa'.

'Keeper Of The Castle' provided the group with their first chart hit for a while in 1972, with the subsequent album containing the excellent 'When Tonight Meets Tomorrow'.

The group were teamed up with the songwriting partnership Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter at this time.

Several excellent albums followed including 'Main Street People' in 1973 and 'Meeting Of The Minds' in 1974.

'Night Lights Harmony' was released in 1975, followed by 'Catfish' in 1976 (containing the excellent 'Strung Out On Your Love').

'The Show Must Go On' turned out to be the groups final album for ABC / Dunhill before the Four Tops relocated to the MCA imprint.

In 1981, they joined Casablanca Records, and had a number 1 hit with 'When She Was My Girl'.

In 1983, the group performed with The Temptations during the Motown 25th Anniversary television special.

They re-signed to the label for 'Back Where I Belong', one side of which was produced by Holland / Dozier / Holland.

In 1986, Levi Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey the man-eating plant in the film version of 'Little Shop of Horrors'.

They then relocated to the Arista imprint, where they recorded the singles 'Indestructible' and 'Loco In Acapulco', the latter taken from the soundtrack to the film 'Buster'.

The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and continued to tour the oldies circuit.

The groups line-up remained the same throughout their recording career until Lawrence Payton died from liver cancer in June 1997.

In 2002, it was reported that Levi Stubbs was suffering from prostate cancer, however, he had suffered a stroke and a mild heart attack.

This led to Levi not being able to tour.

His place, in the line up, was taken by Ronnie McNeir.

In 2004, a special event was held in his honour, entitled 'It’s All The Way Live With Levi - 50 Years And Still Going'.

Levi attended, along with The Temptations, The Contours, Mary Wilson, Dennis Edwards, The Miracles, The Marvelettes, The Spinners, The Dells, Ollie Woodson, The Satin Tones, The Supremes including members Cindy Birdsong, Jean Terrell, Sherrie Payne amongst others.

Renaldo Obie Benson sadly died on the 1st July 2005, Harper Hospital, Detroit, from several medical conditions.

The current group line up comprises: 'Night Lights Harmony' was released in 1975, followed by 'Catfish' in 1976 (containing the excellent 'Strung Out On Your Love').

'The Show Must Go On' turned out to be the groups final album for ABC / Dunhill before the Four Tops relocated to the MCA imprint.

In 1981, they joined Casablanca Records, and had a number 1 hit with 'When She Was My Girl'.

In 1983, the group performed with The Temptations during the Motown 25th Anniversary television special.

They re-signed to the label for 'Back Where I Belong', one side of which was produced by Holland / Dozier / Holland.

In 1986, Levi Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey the man-eating plant in the film version of 'Little Shop of Horrors'.

They then relocated to the Arista imprint, where they recorded the singles 'Indestructible' and 'Loco In Acapulco', the latter taken from the soundtrack to the film 'Buster'.

The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and continued to tour the oldies circuit.

The groups line-up remained the same throughout their recording career until Lawrence Payton died from liver cancer in June 1997.

In 2002, it was reported that Levi Stubbs was suffering from prostate cancer, however, he had suffered a stroke and a mild heart attack.

This led to Levi not being able to tour.

His place, in the line up, was taken by Ronnie McNeir.

In 2004, a special event was held in his honour, entitled 'It’s All The Way Live With Levi - 50 Years And Still Going'.

Levi attended, along with The Temptations, The Contours, Mary Wilson, Dennis Edwards, The Miracles, The Marvelettes, The Spinners, The Dells, Ollie Woodson, The Satin Tones, The Supremes including members Cindy Birdsong, Jean Terrell, Sherrie Payne amongst others.

Renaldo Obie Benson sadly died on the 1st July 2005, Harper Hospital, Detroit, from several medical conditions.

The current group line up comprises:

Abdul 'Duke' Fakir, Roquel Payton (Lawrence's son), Theo Peoples and Ronnie McNeir.

Levi Stubbs passed away at his home in Detroit on the 17th October 2008. He was 72.

Levi had suffered a series of strokes and other illnesses had been sick for a number of years prior to his passing.





Discography

Four Tops (Motown 1965)
Four Tops No. 2 (Motown 1965)
Four Tops On Top (Motown 1966)
Four Tops Live! (Motown 1966)
Four Tops On Broadway (Motown 1967)
Four Tops Reach Out (Motown 1967)
Yesterday's Dreams (Motown 1968)
Four Tops Now! (Motown 1969)
Soul Spin (Motown 1969)
Still Waters Run Deep (Motown 1970)
Changing Times (Motown 1970)
with the Supremes: The Magnificent Seven (Motown 1970)
with the Supremes: The Return Of The Magnificent Seven (Motown 1971)
with the Supremes: Dynamite (Motown 1972)
Nature Planned It (Motown 1972)
Keeper Of The Castle (Dunhill 1972)
Shaft In Africa film soundtrack (Dunhill 1973)
Main Street People (Dunhill 1973)
Meeting Of The Minds (Dunhill 1974)
Live And In Concert (Dunhill 1974)
Night Lights Harmony (ABC 1975)
Catfish (ABC 1976)
The Show Must Go On (ABC 1977)
At The Top (MCA 1978)
The Four Tops Tonight! (Casablanca 1981)
One More Mountain (Casblanca 1982)
Back Where I Belong (Motown 1983)
Magic (Motown 1985)
Hot Nights (Motown 1986)
Indestructible (Arista 1988)


Resource:
Soulwalking.co.uk

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