Legendary Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs dies

Four TopsLevi Stubbs, the legendary lead singer of the Four Tops, and one of the greatest soul vocalists of all time, has died in Detroit at age 72 after a long illness.  Stubbs' death leaves only one remaining Tops founding member, Abdul "Duke" Fakir.

As the distinctive lead of the Four Tops, Stubbs was best known for his deep, passionate vocal style that turned Holland-Dozier-Holland compositions like "Bernadette" and "Reach Out" and later, upon the group's move from Motown to ABC Records, on adult soul songs such as "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)" and "Keeper of the Castle."

Stubbs also took a comical turn, playing the voice of Audrey II in the movie version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors. 

Four TopsLevi Stubbs, the legendary lead singer of the Four Tops, and one of the greatest soul vocalists of all time, has died in Detroit at age 72 after a long illness.  Stubbs' death leaves only one remaining Tops founding member, Abdul "Duke" Fakir.

As the distinctive lead of the Four Tops, Stubbs was best known for his deep, passionate vocal style that turned Holland-Dozier-Holland compositions like "Bernadette" and "Reach Out" and later, upon the group's move from Motown to ABC Records, on adult soul songs such as "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)" and "Keeper of the Castle."

Stubbs also took a comical turn, playing the voice of Audrey II in the movie version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors. 

A stroke permanently sidelined Stubbs over a half decade ago, and he was wheelchair-bound as he took the stage for the group's 50th anniversary celebration in 2004.  But Levi Stubbs will long be remembered as a staple of Motown's greatest years and as one of the most distinctive and revered vocalists of all time.

Click Here to read our full biography of Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops

See A. Scott Galloway's reflections at Urban Network

Click here to see our forum discussion

Here is a statement from Berry Gordy, Jr. about Levi Stubbs:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my friend, Levi Stubbs.  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. 

Levi was the greatest interpreter of songs I've ever heard.  He was lead singer of the greatest and most loving group, The Four Tops.  I remember when we heard their first Motown release, "Baby I Need Your Loving.   Levi's voice exploded in the room and went straight for our hearts.  We all knew it was a hit, hands down.

He could easily have made it as a solo star, but his love and loyalty for Obie, Lawrence and Duke kept them together longer than any group I know.  His integrity and character were impeccable.  I have never seen a more dedicated person-to his wife, his group, his friends. 

He was my first choice for the romantic lead in "Lady Sings the Blues."  Levi had the looks, the stature and the street smarts of a Louis MacKay.  He was on the road with The Four Tops when I contacted him.  But he refused the role because he thought it would interfere with the group's future success. 

I loved his hit songs for Motown, like "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "Reach Out (I'll Be There)," "Standing in the Shadows of Love," "MacArthur Park" and  "Bernadette," But also outside of Motown, his rendition  of "I Believe in You and Me"  was incredible.  I've heard no one better.

I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to his wife, Clineice and children, to Duke and other family members and friends.

He will be really missed.

Berry Gordy
October 17, 2008

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