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Four Tops Frontman Levi Stubbs Dies


posted: 10 HOURS 44 MINUTES AGOcomments: 85filed under: Music News, ObitsPrintShareText SizeAAA(Oct. 17) - Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs, who possessed one of the most dynamic and emotive voices of all the Motown singers, died Friday at 72. He had been ill recently and died in his sleep at the Detroit house he shared with his wife, said Dana Meah, the wife of a grandson. The Wayne County medical examiner's office also confirmed the death.

Recently Departed Music StarsAP31 photos Levi Stubbs, Oct. 17: The iconic lead singer, second from left, who gave voice to Four Tops classics like "Reach Out I'll Be There" and "Baby I Need Your Loving" died at 72 from complications of cancer and a stroke. Abdul Fakir, far left, is now the sole living member of the original quartet.(Note: Please disable your pop-up blocker)

Recently Departed Music Stars

Levi Stubbs, Oct. 17: The iconic lead singer, second from left, who gave voice to Four Tops classics like "Reach Out I'll Be There" and "Baby I Need Your Loving" died at 72 from complication of cancer and a stroke. Abdul Fakir, far left, is now the sole living member of the original quartet.


Nick Reynolds, Oct. 1: The Kingston Trio led the folk music uprising in the late 1950s, paving the way for the Dylans and the Baezs of the world. Reynolds, right with Dave Guard and Bob Shane, had been in the hospital with acute respiratory disease before his family took him off life support. He was 75.


Norman Whitfield, Sept. 16: The Motown tunesmith responsible for anthems like 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine' 'Car Wash' and 'War' died shortly after awakening from a diabetes-related coma. He was 67.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Richard Wright, Sept. 15: With Pink Floyd, he unleashed new sounds from his collection of synths and organs that gave the band its signature psychedelic sheen. Wright, who also wrote mammoth cuts like "Us and Them" for the band, died following a battle with cancer. He was 65.


Jerry Reed, Sept. 2: He started off as a guitarist, eventually had a string of country hits and also made the jump to the big screen with successful turns in Burt Reynolds films like 'Smokey and the Bandit' and 'Gator.' Reed lost a battle to emphysema at 71.

Doug McKenzie, Getty Images

Steve Foley, Aug. 23: The bespeckled drummer from Minneapolis will always be known as the replacement Replacement for his brief tenure after Chris Mars left the beloved band in 1990. His death at 49 is being attributed to an accidental prescription drug overdose. He appeared in one video for the band, the visually quirky 'When It Began,' pictured.

YouTube / Rhino Records

LeRoi Moore, Aug. 19: As a founding member of the Dave Matthews Band, Moore's saxaphone playing helped propel the band's sound to major success. He was 46.


Pervis Jackson, Aug. 18: Jackson provided the deep bass that was the foundation of The Spinners' many soul hits. He lost his battle with brain and liver cancer at age 70.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Isaac Hayes, Aug. 10: He branched out from his early start in soul music to help influence the sound of funk and disco. He also won an Oscar for his iconic Number One hit 'Theme From Shaft.' Hayes was 65.

Getty Images

Robert Hazard, Aug. 5: He wrote the Cyndi Lauper classic, 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,' and later had a hit with 'Escalator of Life' before revving up country outfit The Hombres. The Philly icon died after a brief illness. He was 59.

Jonathan Wilson, Philadelphia Inquirer / MCT

With Stubbs in the lead, the Four Tops sold millions of records, including such hits as "Baby I Need Your Loving," ''Reach Out (I'll Be There)" and "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)."

The group performed for more than four decades without a change in personnel. Stubbs' death leaves one surviving member of the original group: Abdul "Duke" Fakir.

Stubbs "fits right up there with all the icons of Motown," said Audley Smith, chief operating officer of the Motown Historical Museum. "His voice was as unique as Marvin's or as Smokey's or as Stevie's."

The Four Tops began singing together in 1953 under the group name the Four Aims and signed a deal with Chess Records. They later changed their names to the Four Tops to avoid being confused with the Ames Brothers.

'I Can't Help Myself'

'Baby I Need Your Loving'

They also recorded for Red Top, Riverside and Columbia Records and toured supper clubs.

The Four Tops signed with Motown Records in 1963 and produced 20 Top-40 hits over the next 10 years, making music history with the other acts in Berry Gordy's Motown stable.

Their biggest hits were recorded between 1964 and 1967 with the in-house songwriting and production team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. Both 1965's "I Can't Help Myself" and 1966's "Reach Out" went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.

Other hits included "Shake Me, Wake Me" (1966); "Bernadette" and "Standing in the Shadows of Love" (both 1967).

'Wake Me, Shake Me'

'Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)'

They toured for decades afterward and reached the charts as late as 1988 with "Indestructible" on Arista Records. In 1986, Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey II the man-eating plant in the film "Little Shop of Horrors."

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Original Top Lawrence Payton died of liver cancer in 1997. Renaldo "Obie" Benson died of lung cancer in 2005.

Stubbs was born in 1936 in Detroit and attended Pershing High School, where he sang with Fakir. They met fellow Detroiters Payton and Benson while singing at a mutual friend's birthday party, then decided to form a group.

"These are four of the greatest people I have ever known. They were major pros even before they came to Motown," Gordy said when the Four Tops' star was unveiled in Hollywood.

Stubbs is survived by his wife, five children and 11 grandchildren.

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RIP, we lost another legend

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WOW. Rest In Peace. I saw the 4 Tops perform live once in my entire life, before a Medieval dinner & show in Spain.

It was the most amazing moment in time, watching the Legendary 4 Tops perform live, outside of the US...

~ cookie

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