The Four Tops

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The Four Tops

Post  artist2010 on Mon May 17, 2010 6:02 pm

Formed 1956, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. Levi Stubbs (b. Levi Stubbles, 6th June 1936, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. d. 17th October 2008, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.) Renaldo 'Obie' Benson (b. 14th June 1936, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. d. 1st July 2005, Harper Hospital, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.) Lawrence Payton (b. 2nd March 1938, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A, d. 20th June 1997) and Abdul 'Duke' Fakir (b. 26th December 1935, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.)
The Four Tops were formed, under that name, in 1956 in Detroit, Michigan, although two years prior to that they had sang at a party together in the town. All of the group members attended Detroit-area high schools. Levi Stubbs and Abdul 'Duke' Fakir attended Pershing, and met Northern students Renaldo 'Obie' Benson and Lawrence Payton at a friend's birthday party. It was at this party where the quartet first sang together.
In those preceding years they called themselves the Four Aims, as early as 1953, changing their name in 1956 to the Four Tops. As the Four Aims, they sang Jazz Standards, converting to an R & B sound with the name change. They changed their name to the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the group the Ames Brothers.
Lawrence Payton's cousin Roquel Davis helped them get an audition with Chess Records in 1956, where they recorded one single entitled 'Kiss Me Baby'. The Four Tops also recorded for the Red Top, Columbia (where they recorded 'Ain't That Love' in 1960) and Riverside imprints between 1958 and 1962.
In 1963, the group were then signed to the Motown jazz subsidiary Workshop. In 1964, they recorded an album entitled 'Breaking Through', which wasn't released and Berry Gordy decided to put the group in the songwriting hands of the Holland / Dozier / Holland writing and production team.
Instant success followed with the initial release, with the new collaboration, in the form of 'Baby I Need Your Loving'. The song reached the Top 20 in the States. In 1965, they released 'I Can't Help Myself', which went straight to the top of the charts, and the success continued for the group.
For two more years, the Tops and the writing team had continued success, with 'Reach Out I'll Be There' making the top spot in the charts both sides of the Atlantic in 1966. The Four Tops also charted with the songs 'Bernadette' and 'It's The Same Old Song'. By 1967, the groups sound diversified, however, they still charted with Left Banke's 'Walk Away Renee' and Tim Hardin's 'If I Were A Carpenter'.
When the Holland / Dozier / Holland writing team left the Motown stable to form the Invictus imprint, the Four Tops success was placed on the backburner, however, they teamed up with the various producers / writers such as Frank Wilson and Smokey Robinson. In 1970, they charted again with the Tommy Edwards song 'It's All In The Game', and the ballad 'Still Waters (Run Deep)'. Also in 1970, they teamed up with The Supremes for the first of three albums together. They also had a hit in 1971 with the Jim Webb song 'MacArthur Park'.
Renaldo 'Obie' Benson co-wrote Marvin Gaye's classic song 'What's Going On' that same year. One final album was released for the Motown label entitled 'Nature Planned it' in 1972. Later that year, the Four Tops left Motown, following the release of the single 'A Simple Game'. The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and continued to tour the oldies circuit.

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