Friday, October 17, 2008

Music world cries Levi Stubbs' Tears

Bad news, sad news coming to your doorstep, as reported by USA TODAY:

Levi Stubbs, whose distinctive, rough-hewn voice and pleading vocal style elevated the Four Tops' soul classics to masterpieces, died today at his Detroit home. He was 72.

The Michigan native had been in ill health since being diagnosed with cancer in 1995. A stroke and other health problems led him to stop touring in 2000.

Stubbs was born in Detroit and grew up with the future Tops in the city's North End. Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir sang together in a group while attending Pershing High School, while Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton attended Detroit's Northern High.

The group was formed after the four began harmonizing at a birthday party in 1954. They began practicing the next day and soon began calling themselves the Four Aims, performing mostly jazz standards.

Later that year, the Aims had their first gig, $300 for a week of shows at Eddie's Lounge in Flint. They also performed regularly with Stubbs' cousin, Jackie Wilson.


Howard Kramer, curatorial director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted the group in 1990, said the Tops were a polished group by the time Motown came calling. "The Four Tops were seasoned; they had a better world view than kids right out of high school," he told The Detroit News in 2004.

"They also had one lead singer, which gave them more of a distinguishable identity. Levi Stubbs was the first church-based soul shouter and pure singer. James Brown could shout, but Levi was a singer as well. He could invoke so much passion and longing in a voice; he is incredibly expressive."

"Well, I'm rather loud and raw," Stubbs told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. "I don't really even have a style; I just come by the way I sing naturally. When I learn a song, I try to live it as best I can."
I THINK I'll just leave you with this from Billy Bragg -- his 1991 video of "Levi Stubbs' Tears."

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