Paying Tribute to The Four Tops
Levi Stubbs (b. c. 1938, Detroit, Michigan, USA), Renaldo 'Obie' Benson (b. 1937, Detroit, Michigan, USA), Lawrence Payton (b. c. 1938, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 10 June 1997) and Abdul 'Duke' Fakir (b. c. 1938, Detroit, Michigan, USA), first sang together at a party in Detroit in 1954, calling themselves the Four Aimes, they began performing at supper clubs in the city, with a reportoire of Jazz songs and standards. To avoid confusion with the popular singing group the Ames Brothers and recoreded a one-off single for the R&B label Chess.
Further unsuccessful recordings appeared on Red Tops, Columbia and Riverside between 1958 and 1962, subsidiary workshop, in 1963. Motown boss Berry Gordy elected not to release their intial release album, breaking through, in 1964, and suggested that they record with the label's Holland/Dozier/Holland writing and production team.
The intial release from this liason was "Baby I Need Your Loving", which showcased the group's strong harmonies and gruff, soulful lead vocals of Levi Stubbs; it reached the US Top 20. The following year, another Holland/Dozier/Holland song, "I can't Help Myself", topped the charts, and established the Four Tops until 1967. The pinnacle of this collaboration was "Reach Out I'll Be There; a transatlantic hit in 1966. This represented the pinnacle of the traditional Motown style, bringing an almost symphonic arrangement to an R&B love song; producer Phil Specter described the record as 'black (Bob) Dylan'.
Other major hits such as "It's The Same Old Song", Bernadette" is regarded as Motown classics today. In 1967, the Four Tops began to widen their appeal with soul-tinged versions of pop hits, such as the Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee" and Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter".
The departure of Holland/Dozier/Holland from Motown later year brought a temporary halt to the group's progress, and it was only in 1970, under other producer/writers like Frank Wilson and Smokey Robinson, that the Four Tops regained their hit status with a revival of the Tommy Edwards hit "It's All In The Game", and the socially aware ballad "Still Waters". That same year, they teamed up with the Supremes for the first of three albums of collaborations.
another revival, Richard Harris's hit "MacArthur Park", brought them success in 1971, while Renaldo "Obie" Benson also co-wrote Marvin Gaye's hit single "What's Going On". However, after working with the Moody Blues on "A Simple Game" in 1972, the Four Tops elected to leave Motown when the corporation relocated its head office from Detroit to California. They signed a contract with Dunhill, and immediately restored their chart success with records that marked a return to their mid-60s style, notably the theme song to the "blaxploitation" movie Shaft In Africa, "Are You Man Enough."
Subsequent releases were less dynamic, and for the remainder of the 70s the Four Tops enjoyed only sporadic chart success, although they continued touring and performing their Motown hits. After two years of inactivity at the end of the second decade, they joined Casablanca Records, and immediately secured a number one soul hit with "When She Was My Girl", which revived their familiar stly.
They also charted in Britian and America, in 1983, the group performed a storming medley "duel" of their 60s hits with the Temtations during the Motown 25th Anniversary television special. They re-signed to the label for the aptly titled "Back Where I Belong", one side of which was produced by Holland/Dozier/Holland.
However, dissapointing sales and disputes about the group's musical direction led them to leave Motown once again for Arista Records, where they found immediate success in 1988 with singles "Indestructible" and "Loco In Alcapulco"; the latter taken from soudtrack to the film "Buster". THe Four Tops retained a constant line-up from their inception up until Peyton's death in June 1997. Their immaculate choreography and harmonies have ensured them ongoing success as a live act from the mid-60s to the present day-notably in the Uk and Europe, where they have always been held in higher regard than in their homeland. The Four Tops have entertained millions for years, they are truly legends.