We Remember Levi Stubbs

By Gary Johnson

If you look up the word velvet or smooth in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Levi Stubbs. The Legendary Voice Is Gone. Levi Stubbs, one of Motown’s greatest voices is gone. As the longtime lead singer for the Four Tops, Stubbs was known for his distinct vocals on some of Motown Records bestselling recordings in the 1960’s and 1970’s including “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Bernadette” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There.”

Highland Beach (Annapolis, MD) music critic Kirk Caldwell must be sad today. Kirk had music by the Four Tops playing at his wedding over two decades ago. Levi Stubbs was one of Kirk’s favorite lead singers. According to confirmed press reports Stubbs, who has been sick since being diagnosed with cancer in 1995 died at his home in Detroit. He was 72. A stroke and other health problems led him to stop touring in 2000.

The Four Tops had more than 40 hits on the Billboard pop charts, including 24 that reached the top 40. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the group in 1990.

Of the four “Tops” who first came together in 1953, only one — Abdul “Duke” Fakir — survives. Lawrence Payton died in 1997, and Renaldo “Obie” Benson died in 2005. Fakir now leads a version of the Four Tops that includes Payton’s son, Roquel.

The original foursome “performed for over four decades together without a single change in personnel — a record of constancy that is mind-boggling in the notoriously changeable world of popular music,” the Hall of Fame says in an online profile.

Stubbs also provided the voice for the man-eating plant known as Audrey II in the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986).

Stubbs is survived by his wife of 48 years, Clineice, and five children.

Check out two video performances. The first video is a 1978 performance of the Four Tops singing their hit song “Ain’t No Woman Like The One I Got.”

The second video shows The Four Tops performing an emotional version of the song “I Believe In You And Mewith Aretha Franklin on their 50th anniversary special, which aired on PBS featuring Levi Stubbs (in a wheel chair) singing.

Feel free to leave your comments about Levi Stubbs. What is your favorite Four Top song?


6 Responses to “We Remember Levi Stubbs”

  1. Kirk A. Caldwell Says:

    Levi Stubbs was one of the few men I can listen to over and over again. The song “I Believe In You and Me,” is one of my all time favorite songs. My wife has me sing it to her all the time when she hears it playing, no matter where we are. I truly believe that song is keeping my marriage strong which is now in it’s 24th year. I get misty eyed when I sing it sometimes to her, cause it really expresses my love for her. Levi, you will truly be missed by me. I will be playing his songs through this weekend in memory of him. It is hard to express my thoughts about this man with a great voice, that moves me to sing all his songs, even though I cannot sing. But I do try real hard, LOL. Thanks Gary for the videos it was a pleasure to see him one more time on stage.

    Kirk from Highland Beach, MD

  2. Mr. Bromont Says:

    Well Ladies and Gentlemen another one of those times is with us again. We have lost another legend of soulful R&B world and he was another one of the great singers of this distinguished group. I can’t say much more differently than Mr. Kirk A. Caldwell says here before me. I really enjoyed listening to Levi sing too. My music collection has a lot of the legacy he leaves behind for all of us to enjoy. Thank you Levi. Thank you Black Men in America for the videos. Thank you Mr. Gary Johnson on great commentary here when I come to visit.

    Peace and Blessings be with all from Mr. Bromont

  3. Dianne Punch Says:

    Thank you! Thank you!

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    […]We Remember Levi Stubbs « Black Men In America[…]…

  5. Renate Bauer Says:

    What a group, and the frontleader Levi is for me the greatest voice for me…RIP Levi…

  6. that was our wedding song…..miss you levi
    no better sound in motown

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