Rockapaedia Obituaries

Levi Stubbs

Group: The Four Tops

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image of Levi Stubbs
Levi Stubbs died aged seventy-two in his sleep on 17th October 2008, at his home in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1995, and later he was no longer able to tour with the group after suffering a stroke. A memorial service for Levi Stubbs was held at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on 27th October 2008 and he was interred at Detroit's historic Woodlawn Cemetery. Many of Levi's friends from the music industry attended including Berry Gordy, Martha Reeves, Brian Holland, Ali-Ollie Woodson and Dennis Edwards. Detroit City Council member JoAnn Watson, along with Martha Reeves, presented a resolution naming Levi Stubbs' birthday "Levi Stubbs Day" in Detroit.

Levi Stubbs and his wife Clineice were married for 48 years from 1960 until his death. The couple had five children along with eleven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

Levi Stubbs was born on 6th June 1936 in Detroit and attended Detroit Pershing High School, where he met Abdul "Duke" Fakir. Levi began his professional singing career with friends Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton, forming a singing group called the Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, after signing with Chess Records, the group changed their name to the Four Tops. The name change was meant to avoid confusion with the then-popular Ames Brothers. The Four Tops began as a supper-club act before signing to Motown Records in 1963. By the end of the decade, they had over a dozen hits. The most popular of their hits, all of which featured Levi Stubbs on lead vocals, include "Baby I Need Your Loving", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)", "It's the Same Old Song", "Reach Out I'll Be There", "Standing in the Shadows of Love", "Bernadette", "If I Were A Carpenter", "Walk Away Renee", as well as the late hit "Loco In Acapulco".
Although Levi Stubbs was a natural baritone, most Four Tops' hits were written in a tenor range to give the lead vocals a sense of urgency.
Despite being the most prominent member of the group, Levi Stubbs refused to have separate billing, in photo of Levi Stubbscontrast to other Motown acts such as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Diana Ross and the Supremes. He also turned down several offers for a solo career, out of loyalty to his bandmates. Levi Stubbs and the other Tops remained a team until Lawrence Payton died in 1997, at which point Theo Peoples took his place. The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. They have sold over 50 million records worldwide.
During the group's long career it was signed to the Tamla Motown, ABC Dunhill, Arista and Casablanca record labels.
Although not an actor per se, Levi Stubbs provided the voice of the carnivorous plant Audrey II in the 1986 movie version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors and the voice of Mother Brain in the animated TV series Captain N: The Game Master in 1989.
Levi Stubbs also guest-starred in a number of TV shows as himself. Berry Gordy offered him the role of Louis McKay in the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues, which would have starred him opposite Diana Ross as Billie Holiday. Levi Stubbs turned the role down, however, once again not wishing to overshadow the other members of the Four Tops. Levi Stubbs has been regarded by some as one of the quintessential male soul singers. According to AllMusic's Ed Hogan, the vocalist had a "pleading urgency in his voice that perfectly captured the longing anxiousness of the songs written by the producing trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland".
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song: 'Bernadette' by Levi Stubbs with The Four Tops