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Friday, October 17, 2008


Levi Stubbs — Motown Legend Dies at Age 72

Levi Stubbs 2nd from left in The Four Tops

There weren't a lot of reasons to be happy about growing up in financially depressed Detroit in the 1970s. It was a time in that city's history when it seemed everyone was leaving, including the music industry, which was relocating to Los Angeles. Nonetheless, there were still so many radio stations and friends playing the music that came out of that town in the 1960s that it dominated and brightened the soundtrack of my childhood.

Those not from Motown may not recognize the name of Levi Stubbs, but everyone knows the music he made, in their heart and head — "Baby I Need Your Loving;" "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch);" "Reach Out I'll Be There;" "Standing in the Shadows of Love;" and, of course, my personal favorite, "Bernadette." It's impossible to listen to any of those songs today without tripping back to a memory of something good about Detroit.

Stubbs died today, but the music ... it's still enjoying airplay all around the world.

From the New York Times:
DETROIT — Levi Stubbs, the gravelly-voiced, imploring lead singer of the Motown group the Four Tops, who stood out in 1960s pop classics like “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” and “Bernadette,” died on Friday at his home here. He was 72.

His death was confirmed by the office of the Wayne County Medical Examiner. No cause was given. Mr. Stubbs had had a series of illnesses, including a stroke and cancer, that forced him to stop performing in 2000, although he briefly participated in the Four Tops’ 50th-anniversary concert in 2004, which was broadcast on public television.

Formed while its original members were in high school, the Four Tops were one of the most successful groups of the 20th century. They had more than 40 hits on the Billboard pop charts, including their first No. 1 single, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” in 1964.

Hugely popular abroad as well as in the United States, the group became a linchpin of Motown Records, the Detroit label started by Berry Gordy Jr., and was second only to the Temptations, with whom it was often compared, in popularity among its male artists. In 1990 the Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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