Friday, October 17, 2008

Levi Stubbs, 1936-2008

Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops, dead at the age of 72. I don't need to tell you anything about Stubbs' credits or singing ability.

The most amazing thing about the Four Tops was their longevity: They got together as a group in 1954, when Motown was still a gleam in Berry Gordy's eye (although they wouldn't call themselves the Four Tops for two more years). Then the same four guys - Stubbs, Duke Fakir, Obie Benson and Lawrence Payton - would remain the Four and Only Tops for forty-three years, until Payton died in 1997. (Levi Stubbs, a rock if there ever was one, was also married to the same woman for 48 years.) By contrast, there have been twenty-two different Temptations.

The only group that looks like it might challenge the Four Tops' record is U2, which has had the same four members since Dik Evans, the Edge's brother, left in 1978, which is also the moment that the band changed its name from the Hype to U2.

Here's a rather shaky vision of the Tops doing the great "Walk Away Renee," which they actually took to Number Fourteen back in 1968:


MJN said...

Wow, I didn't know the Four Tops maintained their original lineup for 43 years. That's amazing.

They're only a trio, but ZZ Top is up to 38 years and counting.

Gavin said...

I actually tackled this question in the "Rolling Stone Knows" column/"Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John" book; I believe it was even submitted by a member of the Nawrocki family.

It's online here. All numbers were correct as of 2006, so add two years to any active band's total.

Short answer: the Bee Gees were together for 45 years before Robin died.

(I don't mention the Four Tops in the honor roll, even though it looks like they never broke up or even went on a serious hiatus; that would be a mistake. I'll modify the page and add them.)

Anonymous said...

Robin didn't die; Maurice did.

If were are counting longevity with the same members, but not necessarily the founding members, then I believe The Dells have had the same line-up since 1960. (They started in 1952.)

Gavin said...

Thanks for the correction; I got it right in the book but somehow flipped things around.

(Other acts with decades together with the original members that we haven't mentioned here: Los Lobos (although they added a guy later, they didn't lose anybody), UB40, the Osmonds, the Neville Brothers.)

T. Nawrocki said...

The Neville Brothers added a guy, too: Aaron's son Ivan.

The amazing thing about UB40 is that it's the same original EIGHT guys.