Black Music History "Group Session" – Day 9: The Four Tops

6 Degrees of Soul: In 1985, Day 8’s The Commodores scored their 1st and only Grammy win with the tribute song “Nightshift”.  The song is in honor of Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, both passed in 1984. Wilson is the cousin of Levi Stubbs, who was the lead singer of Day 9’s The Four Tops.

From 1953 to 1997, The Four Tops never changed their roster of Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton. A run of four decades is rare for a solo artist, multiply that by 4 and you have exceptional. During that time, The Four Tops made their mark in music lore. While at Motown the group thrived with production from Holland-Dozier-Holland. Later they were placed on the back burner to acts such as The Jackson 5 and Diana Ross. However, you don’t last four decades without perseverance, before leaving Motown they ensemble released Still Waters Run Deep. It was one of Motown’s first concept albums. Highly overlooked and under-promoted, the album would serve as the precursor to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. “Obie” Benson co-wrote the title track “What’s Going On”. We often celebrate and share the story of The Temptations and The Supremes, but it’s important we remember The Tops!
“Standing In The Shadows of Love” would later be used as an abbreviated title for a documentary on The Funk Brothers
…the legend of the “It’s the Same Old Song”… (a problem we have still on the radio today) here goes… The Four Tops had huge success with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”… their former label, Columbia Records, wanted to cash in on their success and released an old song soon after… Berry Gordy, not going for that bullsh!t, ordered another hit song be made for The Tops within a days time… after some drinks, Lamont Dozier (of H-D-H) and “Duke” Fakir were listening to the radio, changing the dials, realized “it’s the same ole song… ” being played… so H-D-H reversed the chords to “I Can’t Help Myself”, wrote the “the same ole song” theme to love… recorded… mixed… hand-cut the vinyl records… in time for Gordy’s sister Esther to review and approve the next day… by that afternoon, 1500 copies were made and distributed to DJs across America… the Motown sound was serious… 

…check out an alternate mix to “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever”
…my all-time favorite Four Tops song(s)… “Still Water (Peace and Love)”… from Still Waters Runs Deep
…what happens when The Tops leave Motown and begin to sing Funk and Disco? Well… “Catfish” happens… and apparently, she’ll make your nature rise… dig in… 😉 …click for live version
…when Shaft went to Africa… The Tops sung about it… “Are You Man Enough?”
this is 4-star Soul… that’s hard to top…
come back tomorrow for more…
– dre’ of

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