by Robert Wilkinson
Yesterday was the birthday of the great Levi Stubbs, lead singer for the Four Tops and undoubtedly one of the most powerful and compelling baritones ever to grace our planets.
Mister Levi Stubbles (June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008), aka Levi Stubbs, was one of THE voices of the Soul 60s. In an era of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Otis Redding, the Supremes, Dionne Warwick, the Marvelettes, Sam and Dave, Martha and the Vandellas, and too many other greats to list here, the Four Tops were consistently at or near the top of the charts. Their music was all over the radio and we were fed a long feast of hits that everyone loved and danced to.
Cousin of the legendary Jackie Wilson, when Levi met Abdul “Duke” Fakir in high school, history was made. Add Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton, and you had a group for the ages. They were truly one of THE voices of Motown. Together from 1953 to 1997 without a change in lineup, and it's easy to see this is one of the most enduring vocal groups in history!
For our “Saturday Night Attitude” dance, I figured this song has all we need to kick off this soiree, and it’s a great performance clip as well! This is truly live on television, and fantastic! “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”
From TV Oz in 1993, the Four Tops very live and in the groove, offering up their first hit from way back when, the smooth soul sound of “Baby I Need Your Lovin’”
Here's another great television appearance on Hullabaloo in 1965 performed to a backing instrumental track! For you stomping pleasure, their 1965 smash hit "Something About You Baby"
In 1970 Swinging London, this is live! Their second hit was all over the airwaves, and we knew something big was happening! “Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”
Live on b/w television in 1967, “Standing In The Shadows of Love”
More 1967 television with Levi and the boys singing to a backing track offering up “Bernadette”
Live in Europe in 1970, here’s a full 44 minute show! The Four Tops Live in Europe - 1970
Here’s a great 9 minutes of the Four Tops live, with sweet harmonies and smooth dancing! “Ain’t No Woman Like The One I’ve Got,” “Bernadette,” “Same Old Song,” and “Walk Away Renee”
Live on ABC TV in 1981, the Four Tops cranking out a very live performance of “Bernadette,” “Ain’t No Woman,” and “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”
From the PBS 50th Anniversary Show in 2005, the new edition of the Four Tops offering up a fantastic 10 minute live tribute performance to Levi Stubbs! “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Bernadette,” “Same Old Song,” “I Can't Help Myself”
We now get a brief but memorable blast from the past! Here's a single they did in 1956 when they began, back in the era of doo-wop. For your enjoyment, from that year, the studio version of the A side and the B side (remember them?) of their first record, “Could It Be You” and “Kiss Me Baby”
From their early Columbia days, another two sides of early Four Tops cranking up the Twist machine followed by some sweet doo-wop! “Ain’t That Love” and “Lonely Summer”
We now move into the closers, a couple of great television performances from the mid-80s!
From a 1985 television special, 10 minutes of pure Soul gold! “Temptations vs the Four Tops”
From Showtime in 1986, an hour more. This one's sweet! Motown on Showtime – Temptations and the Four Tops
And as always, we close this dance with our Saturday Night Attitude tune. I found two great b/w live performance from the same era. First, live in Brussels in 1967, a very live, very cranked up b/w version of “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and from the same era, another great live performance of “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”
Copyright © 2014 Robert Wilkinson