Is a Four Tops musical coming to Broadway?

By Arnielee at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10543254

(June 2, 2021) The New York Post has reported that the sole living original member of The Four Tops, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, is working with Broadway producer Paul Lambert on a musical about the iconic quartet.

Tentatively titled I’ll Be There, it is hoped that the show will be ready for the 2022 Broadway season, though it may have a brief introductory period in Detroit. It would follow extremely successful Broadway plays on Motown and the Tops' labelmates The Temptations, as well as a thinly veiled fictional look at The Supremes in Dreamgirls.

(June 2, 2021) The New York Post has reported that the sole living original member of The Four Tops, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, is working with Broadway producer Paul Lambert on a musical about the iconic quartet.

Tentatively titled I’ll Be There, it is hoped that the show will be ready for the 2022 Broadway season, though it may have a brief introductory period in Detroit. It would follow extremely successful Broadway plays on Motown and the Tops' labelmates The Temptations, as well as a thinly veiled fictional look at The Supremes in Dreamgirls.

One of the greatest groups to ever come out of Detroit consisted of four singers who made history with their music and their longevity, only being separated by death. Formed in the mid-50s as high schoolers in Detroit, Levi Stubbs, Obie Benson, Lawrence Payton and Fakir were first known as the Four Aims. However, to avoid confusion with the popular Ames Brothers vocal quartet, the group changed its name to the one that would become synonymous with Detroit's "Sound of Young America."

After cutting several unsuccessful tracks for various record labels in the late 50s and early 60s, the Tops signed with Berry Gordy's Motown label and teamed with super songwriters Holland/Dozier/Holland. Their first collaboration, "Baby I Need Your Lovin," was a smash crossover hit and set the stage for future successes.

The Tops rose to the A-list of soul music stars and became, along with the Temptations, the male group leaders of the Motown hit machine. However, the differences between the Tempts and the Tops couldn't have been more stark. The Temptations had the good looks, the choreography and the silky smoothness, but also had constant turmoil, as over 20 singers (including half a dozen lead singers) would serve time as Tempts. The Tops, on the other hand, were the working fan's group. Neither great dancers nor as suave as the Tempts, the Four Tops were nonetheless amazingly cohesive as a group and had something no other group did - the incomparable voice of lead singer Levi Stubbs. His bellowing, impassioned wail was the perfect contrast to the ultra-slick Motown arrangements, and created some classic Motown moments, from "Reach Out, I'll Be There" to "I Can't Help Myself" to "Bernadette." In all, they had over two dozen hits on Motown during the period 1964-1972 and established themselves as one of the top Soul groups of the era.

When Motown relocated to Los Angeles in the early 70s, the Four Tops were the first of the label's major acts to defect, moving over to ABC/Dunhill's black music division and teaming with young writer/producers Lambert & Potter. They hit the ground running with Keeper of the Castle, one of their biggest albums ever, and its monster hit, "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)," and followed it with a series successful singles, including "Are You Man Enough" and "One Chain (Don't Make No Prison)."

They continued with ABC for the rest of the decade until the hits stopped coming and the record label folded. As the 80s arrived, the Four Tops found themselves without a record contract and facing irrelevancy in the fickled world of popular music. Then unexpectedly they found a third life as a group, signing with Casablanca Records and releasing the smash hit, "When She Was My Girl," and the successful album Tonight.

At Motown's 25th Anniversary special in 1983, a playful singing competition was set up between the Temptations and the Four Tops, with the groups poking fun and alternating songs, ultimately joining together for a medley of hits. The act proved so popular that the two groups began a "Tempts vs. Tops" tour that has gone on intermittently for decades years and has been seen by millions of fans.

The Tops returned to Motown in the mid-80s for two unsuccessful albums before signing with Arista in 1989 and releasing Indestructible, their final hit album, which included the song "Loco In Acapulco" from the soundtrack of Phil Collins' movie Buster.
Tragedy struck the group in 1997, as group member Lawrence Payton died of cancer. Sadly, Obie Benson followed in 2005 and Stubbs in 2008.

The group now consists of Fakir, Lex Morris, Roquel Payton (son of Lawrence Payton) and Ronnie McNeir.

The Four Tops certainly have a story to tell after more than six decades, and we hope that Duke Fakir gets to tell it on Broadway.

By Chris Rizik

 

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