Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops (1936-2008)

The man whose voice is synonymous with the sound of the Four Tops has passed away. Levi Stubbs died earlier today at his home in Detroit from a lengthy battle with cancer and a stroke. He was 72.

Stubbs was born Levi Stubbles on June 6, 1936 in Detroit. While in High School, he got together with three of his friends, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton, to form a vocal group called the Four Aims. Payton's cousin, Roquel Davis, got the group an audition at Chess records where they were signed in 1956 under the name of the Four Tops.

One single was released on the label and went nowhere, so they were released and went on to record for Riverside, Red Top and, eventually, Columbia where they were pointed more toward jazz and pop.

In 1963, the quartet singned with Motown and, a year later, had their first hit with Baby I Need Your Loving. Over the next three years, the group would take eleven straight Holland-Dozier-Holland songs to the top forty, including the number ones I Can't Help Myself and Reach Out I'll Be There. In 1968, though, Holland, Dozier and Holland left Motown over a financial dispute and the Four Tops would have trouble finding new footing. While Walk Away Renne and If I Were a Carpenter, both covers, were top twenty hits, the loss of the songwriting team led to two years of uphevil.

Finally, in late-1970, they would again hit the charts with Still Water (Love) and River Deep, Mountain High with the Supremes. It was the beginning of the end for the group with Motown and, when the label moved to L.A., the group decided to stay in Detroit and switch to the Dunhill label. The move reinvigorated their career as they scored three straight hits with Keepar of the Castle, Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got) and Are You Man Enough.

The group stayed with Dunhill through 1978 and wouldn't hit again until three years later when they signed with Casablanca and had the number one R&B hit When She Was My Girl. They later returned to Motown and did additional recording for Arista.

One of the amazing facts about the group is the four original members stayed together their entire career. Payton passed away in 1997 and Benson in 2005.

Stubbs ventured away from the group on very few occassions, most notably when he provided the voice of Audrey II in the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors.

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Clineice. The couple had five children.

Notable hits of Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops:
  • Baby I Need Your Loving (1964/Pop #11, R&B #11)
  • Ask the Lonely (1965/Pop #24, R&B #9)
  • I Can't Help Myself (1965/Pop #1, R&B #1)
  • It's the Same Old Song (1965/Pop #5, R&B #2)
  • Something About You (1965/Pop #19, R&B #9)
  • Reach Out I'll Be There (1966/Pop #1, R&B #1)
  • Standing in the Shadows of Love (1966/Pop #6, R&B #2)
  • Bernadette (1967/Pop #4, R&B #3)
  • 7 Rooms of Gloom (1967/Pop #14/R&B #10 )
  • You Keep Running Away (1967/Pop #19, R&B #9)
  • It's All in the Game (1970/Pop #24, R&B #6)
  • Still Water (Love) (1970/Pop #11, R&B #4)
  • Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life) (1971/Pop #40, R&B #9)
  • River Deep, Mountain High (with the Supremes) (1971/Pop #14, R&B #7)
  • (It's the Way) Nature Planned It (1972/Pop #53, R&B #8)
  • Keeper of the Castle (1972/Pop #10, R&B #7)
  • Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got) (1973/Pop #4, R&B #2)
  • Are You Man Enough (1973/Pop #15, R&B #2)
  • Sweet Understanding Love (1973/Pop #33, R&B #10)
  • Midnight Flower (1974/Pop #55, R&B #5)
  • One Chain Don't Make No Prison (1974/Pop #41, R&B #3)
  • Catfish (1976/Pop #71, R&B #7)
  • When She Was My Girl (1981/Pop #11, R&B #1)

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