Four Tops (Motown)

~ Group


The Four Tops are an American vocal quartet from Detroit, Michigan who helped to define the city's Motown sound of the 1960s. The group's repertoire has included soul music, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, doo-wop, jazz, and show tunes.

Founded as The Four Aims, lead singer Levi Stubbs, and groupmates Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton remained together for over four decades, having gone from 1953 until 1997 without a change in personnel.

The Four Tops were among a number of groups, including The Miracles, The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, The Temptations, and The Supremes, who established the Motown Sound around the world during the 1960s. They were notable for having Stubbs, a baritone, as their lead singer, whereas most male/mixed vocal groups of the time were fronted by a tenor.

The group was the main male vocal group for the highly successful songwriting and production team of Holland–Dozier–Holland, who crafted a stream of hit singles on Motown. These included two Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits for the Tops: "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" in 1965 and "Reach Out I'll Be There" in 1966. After Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown in 1967, the Four Tops were assigned to a number of producers, primarily Frank Wilson, but generally with less success.

When Motown left Detroit in 1972 to move to Los Angeles, California, the Tops stayed in Detroit but signed a new recording deal with ABC Records' Dunhill imprint. Recording mainly in Los Angeles, they continued to have chart singles into the late 1970s, including the million-seller, "Ain't No Woman", their second release on Dunhill, produced by Steve Barri and composers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

In the 1980s, the Four Tops recorded for Casablanca Records, Arista Records and Motown, returning to that label on two occasions for brief stays. Apart from their Indestructible album (owned by Sony Music Entertainment), Universal Music Group controls the rights to their entire post-1963 catalog (through various mergers and acquisitions), as well as their 1956 single, "Could It Be You".

A change of line-up was finally forced upon the group when Lawrence Payton died on June 20, 1997. The group initially continued as a three-piece under the name The Tops, before Theo Peoples (formerly of The Temptations) was recruited as the new fourth member. Peoples eventually took over the role of lead singer when Stubbs suffered a stroke in 2000, with Ronnie McNeir then joining the group. On July 1, 2005, Benson died of lung cancer with Payton's son Roquel Payton replacing him. Levi Stubbs died on October 17, 2008.

Fakir, McNeir, Payton, and Harold "Spike" Bonhart, who replaced Peoples in 2011, are still performing together as the Four Tops. As of 2014, fifty years after their first Motown hit, Fakir is the only surviving founding member of the original group and Payton is a second-generation member.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1964 The Four Tops Four Tops 1
1965 Second Album Four Tops 1
1966 On Top Four Tops 1
1967 Reach Out Four Tops 4
1968 Yesterday's Dreams Four Tops 1
1969 Soul Spin Four Tops 2
1969 Four Tops Now! Four Tops 2
1970 Still Waters Run Deep Four Tops 1
1970 Changing Times Four Tops 1
1970 The Magnificent 7 The Supremes & Four Tops 2
1971 The Return of the Magnificent Seven The Supremes & Four Tops 1
1972 Nature Planned It Four Tops 1
1972 Dynamite The Supremes & Four Tops 1
1972 Keeper of the Castle Four Tops 1
1973 Main Street People Four Tops 1
1977 The Show Must Go On Four Tops 1
1981 Tonight Four Tops 1
1988 Indestructible Four Tops 3
1998 Classic Sounds of the Motor City - Volume One Four Tops 1
1999 Breaking Through Four Tops 1
2001 Four Tops / Second Album Four Tops 1
2001 Still Waters Run Deep / Changing Times Four Tops 1
2001 Yesterday's Dreams / Soul Spin Four Tops 1
2012 The Best Of The Four Tops Four Tops 1
Four Tops Four Tops 1
Live At The Stardust 2006 Four Tops 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1973 Anthology 1964-1972 Four Tops 1
1973 The Best of The Four Tops Four Tops 1
1984 Compact Command Performances: 19 Greatest Hits Four Tops 2
1986 Anthology Four Tops 1
1987 Greatest Hits Four Tops 1
1988 Greatest Hits Four Tops 1
1988 Greatest Hits Four Tops 1
1990 Anthology Four Tops 1
1991 Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got) Four Tops 1
1991 Best Of The Supremes & Four Tops 1
1992 Motown's Greatest Hits Four Tops 1
1992 When She Was My Girl Four Tops 1
1992 The Singles Collection Four Tops 1
1993 The Look of Love Four Tops 1
1996 Early Classics: Four Tops Four Tops 1
1997 The Ultimate Collection Four Tops 1
1997 The Ultimate Collection Four Tops 1
1998 Shake Me, Wake Me Four Tops 1
1999 The Best of the ABC Years 1972-1977 Four Tops 1
2000 Essential Collection Four Tops 1
2000 The Singles+ Four Tops 1
2000 Loco in Acapulco Four Tops 1
2000 The Universal Masters Collection: Classic Four Tops Four Tops 1
2001 Fourever Four Tops 1

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