10/17/2008 12:16:12 PM
Levi Stubbs dead
DETROIT, Michigan (AP) 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.
The Four Tops, with lead singer Levi Stubbs (second from left), dominated the charts in the mid-'60s.
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.
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.
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).
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.
rest in peace, Levi.