MAA EXCLUSIVE: Levi Stubbs, the most profound lead vocalist in American history, died this morning at his Detroit home sources have confirmed. Stubbs who suffered a series of strokes and other illnesses had been sick for a number of years prior to today's news. It was most visible during the televised "50 Year Anniversary Celebration of the Four Tops" broadcast a few years ago.
During the 80's and 90's the Four Tops were one of 3 Motown groups that still had all of their original members performing. The only other groups were the Velvelettes and Martha and the Vandellas.
The Four Tops started their career in the mid 50's, and were already professional recording artists and performers by the time they got to Motown.
They recorded for several labels before signing to Motown in 1963. "Baby, I Need Your Loving" (July 1964), written and produced by the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland, was their first substantial hit, setting the pattern for a series of songs showcasing Stubbs's emotive wail set against the Benson-Payton-Fakir harmony line. Need and longing would be the hallmarks of Stubbs's singing on such songs as "Ask the Lonely" (January 1965), which launched a string of R&B Top Ten/Pop Top 40 hits over the next two years.
Its follow-up, "I Can't Help Myself" (April 1965), hit number one and was itself followed by "It's the Same Old Song" (July 1965), "Something About You" (October 1965), "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)" (February 1966), "Loving You Is Sweeter than Ever" (May 1966). A second number 1, "Reach Out, I'll Be There" (August 1966), "Standing in the Shadows of Love" (November 1966), "Bernadette" (February 1967), "7 Rooms of Gloom" (May 1967), and "You Keep Running Away" (August 1967).
Holland-Dozier-Holland who wrote a ton of the Four Tops hits left Motown (1967). With fortitude and conviction, Stubbs and the gang still cranked out hits such as "If I were You Carpenter", "It's All in the Game," "Still Water (Love)," a duet with the Supremes on "River Deep Mountain High," and "Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)," all of which made the R&B Top Ten and the pop Top 40.
They scored one more R&B Top Ten on Motown, with "(It's the Way) Nature Planned It". They then moved to Dunhill, (later acquired by ABC, then by MCA) Records, where they enjoyed another string of hits. This included "Keeper of the Castle" (October 1972), the gold-selling "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)" (January 1973), "Are You Man Enough" (June 1973), "Sweet Understanding Love" (September 1973), "One Chain Don't Make No Prison" (April 1974), and "Midnight Flower" (July 1974). They returned to the R&B Top Ten with "Catfish" (August 1976), and moved to Casablanca (since acquired by PolyGram) for the R&B number one "When She Was My Girl" (September 1981).
Tragedy struck the group when Laurence Payton died in 1997, Obie Benson died in 2005, and now Levi Stubbs on October 17, 2008 at the age of 70.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Contact: Ron Brewington, National Vice President & Executive Director, Los Angeles Chapter, MAA