You are being redirected - hold on tight!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Music: Four Tops' Powerful Singer Levi Stubbs Dead at 72

Levi Stubbs, whose yearning voice helped power Berry Gordy's Motown Records into one of the most successful entertainment companies in the world as lead singer for the Four Tops, has died.

His songs were pitched at the edge of his range, which gave them a pleading emotional timbre that connected with millions of listeners. It was a long slog from the Chess label in the mid-50s though, to an appearance on Jack Paar's Tonight Show where Gordy saw them and ordered his staff to sign them.

What followed were some of the most treasured songs in music history, racked up through the 60s and early 70s, a soundtrack to people's lives around the world. Among their best were "Baby I Need Your Loving" (1964), "Ask The Lonely" (1965), "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" (1965), "It's The Same Old Song" (1965), "Reach Out I'll Be There" (1966), "Standing in the Shadows of Love"(1966), "Bernadette" (1967), "7 Rooms of Gloom" (1967), "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)" (1973) and "Are You Man Enough?" (1973).

During their classic Motown phase the labels cadre of songwriters, producers, and arrangers built towering edifices of sound for the Tops and Stubbs in particular to inhabit, making them a linchpin group along with The Temptations and The Supremes in the label's golden age. By the late 60s though the Four Tops felt that they were missing out on some of the best material and jumped ship for ABC-Dunhill in 1972 rather than move with the label from Detroit to Los Angeles.

Though the big hits stopped coming by the 80s, the group kept touring with al of their original members intact - a rarity. Only when Lawrence Payton died did the group add a new member. As Stubbs took I'll with cancer, he too had to step back in recent years.

Stubbs also forayed into film in the mid 80s as the voice of the man-eating plant Audrey II  in the musical film Little Shop of Horrors.

Some of the best:

No comments: