Levi Stubbs, 2nd on right
Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops who’s awesome voice graced of Motown classics such as “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and “Baby I Need Your Loving,” died Friday at age 72. Levi Stubbs is survived by his wife Clineice, five children and 11 grandchildren.
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The Four Top’s frontman, Levi Stubbs, has been quite ill recently and died in his sleep at his home in Detroit.
With Levi Stubbs as the lead singer, the Four Tops sold millions of records and performed for more than four decades without changing band members.
“Levi Stubbs was one of the great voices of all times,” former Motown labelmate Smokey Robinson said. “He was very near and dear to my heart. He was my friend and my brother, I miss him. God bless his family and comfort them.”
The Four Tops started singing together in 1953 under the name the Four Aims and signed a deal with Chess Records. The guys later changed their names to the Four Tops to avoid being confused with the Ames Brothers.
The Four Tops also recorded for Red Top, Riverside and Columbia Records and toured supper clubs.
The Four Tops signed on with Motown Records in 1963 and produced 20 Top-40 hits over the next decade, making music history with the other acts in Berry Gordy’s Motown stable.
“It is not only a tremendous personal loss for me, but for the Motown family, and people all over the world who were touched by his rare voice and remarkable spirit,” Gordy said Friday. “Levi was the greatest interpreter of songs I’ve ever heard.”
When he and others at Motown first heard “Baby I Need Your Loving,” Gordy remembered: “Levi’s voice exploded in the room and went straight for our hearts. We all knew it was a hit, hands down.”
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 (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” 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).
The Four Tops group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Stubbs’ death leaves one surviving member of the original group: Abdul “Duke” Fakir. Original Four Top Lawrence Payton died of liver cancer in 1997. Renaldo “Obie” Benson died of lung cancer in 2005.
Levi Stubbs was unable to perform much the past few years due to his health issues. But Stubbs was known to get up on stage from occasionally when a Motown touring production came through Detroit.
Levi Stubbs was born in 1936 and attended Detroit’s Pershing High School, where he sang with Fakir. They met fellow Payton and Benson while singing at a mutual friend’s birthday party, then decided to form their group.
Levi Stubbs is survived by his wife Clineice, five children and 11 grandchildren.
Baby I Need Your Lovin’ Video:
Reach Out I’ll Be There Video: