All About The Four Tops

Mowtown singing group, the The Four Tops
With the late Levi Stubbs leading their musical parade, the Four Tops are one of Motown's fabulous success stories. This American vocal quartet has a compelling musical repertoire including recordings in many genres including doo wop, jazz, soul, R&B, disco, adult contemporary and show tunes.

The Four Tops - BRIEF HISTORY:
Originally called The Aims, the quartet of Levi Stubbs, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton started singing in high school at a local birthday party. They were signed to Chess Records in 1956, where they changed their name to the Four Tops (to avoid confusion with the then-popular Ames Brothers). After unsuccessful stops with Chess, Red Top, Riverside Records and Columbia Records, Berry Gordy Jr. convinced the group to join his growing Motown record label. The result is pop music history, with the group amassing a catalog of soul standards that continue to inspire and bring pleasure to millions to this day. The group was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and it is estimated that the Four Tops have sold over 50 million records.

Their storied career started taking shape when the group signed on with Motown in 1963, where they recorded jazz standards and sang background on other Motown singles. In 1964, Motown's songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland created an instrumental track and crafted the song for the Four Tops. The result? The Four Tops' breakthrough single and now a soul standard "Baby I Need Your Loving" (#11 in 1964).

After a couple of follow up singles did not have the same success (although "Ask The Lonely" was a Top 30 pop hit and a Top Ten R&B hit), the Four Tops success improved dramatically and the group contributed such pop/soul hits as the #1 hit "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" (#1 in 1965), "It's The Same Old Song" (#5 in 1965), "Something About You" (#19 in 1965), "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)," which charted at #18 in 1966.

But their signature song, "Reach Out I'll Be There" (#1 in 1966) put the Four Tops on the top of the Soul/Motown world and the group followed this remarkable record with two other Top Ten hits- "Standing In the Shadows Of Love" (#6 in 1966) and the classic tale of lust and jealousy in the 1967 #4 hit "Bernadette."

Other Top 20 hits followed and the group was one of the most successful male Motown acts in the US and UK (second only to the Temptations). The Tops began experimenting with mainstream pop hits and scored with their versions of "If I Were A Carpenter" (#20 in 1968) and a song originally a hit for the Left Banke "Walk Away Renee" (#14 in 1968). But when the Holland-Dozier-Holland team left Motown in 1967, the quartet, along with most of Motown began to suffer.

The group worked with a wide variety of Motown producers during the late 60's without any significant chart success. But their career was rejuvenated when they started working with producer Frank Wilson and their 1970 album called "Still Waters Run Deep" became an early ancestor to the concept album, and served as inspiration for the 1971 album by Marvin Gaye called "What's Going On" (the title track was co-written by Obie Benson). They also scored Top 40 hits with "It's All In The Game" (#24 in 1970), "Still Water" (#11 in 1970) and were paired with the Supremes in a remake of the classic Ike & Tina Turner hit "River Deep-Mountain High" (#14 in 1970).

However this was a transitional phase for Motown as the music giant began to change. In the early 70's older acts such as Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and the Marvelettes were slowly being pushed aside so the label could focus on the newer acts like the Jackson 5, Rare Earth and Diana Ross (who had launched a solo career). Additionally, the company was in the process of moving its operations from Detroit to Los Angeles (where Gordy had hoped to break into the motion picture and television industries). By 1972, Motown announced that the entire company would move to LA hoping all of its recording artists would follow. Some did, but many opted to stay in Detroit, including the Four Tops.

The group then signed with ABC-Dunhill and was assigned to the songwriting/producing team of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. With this team and their own Lawrence Payton serving as producer/arranger, the Four Tops were revitalized and scored their first Top Ten hit since 1967 with the song "Keeper Of The Castle" (#10 in 1972) and followed that with the now classic soul tune, "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I Got)," which went to #4 on the Billboard charts in 1973. The group also had top ten R&B hits with "Are You Man Enough" (which also went to #15 on the Billboard charts), "Sweet Understanding Love" (#33 Billboard Top 40), "Midnight Flower" and "One Chain Don't Make No Prison." But after these hits in the early 70's the group disappeared into obscurity in the late 70's.

But after signing on with Casablanca Records in 1980, the Four Tops made a short comeback in 1981, scoring a #1 R&B hit with the cut "When She Was My Girl" (#11 Billboard Top 40).

In 1983, the Four Tops rejoined Motown and were featured on the company's television special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever." There they hooked up with the Temptations and decided that the Temptations/Four Tops pairing would be a great touring draw and the two groups (as of 2007) continued to play together.

Back with Motown, the group released the LP "Back Where I Belong" (with one side produced by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team) and the album included the Top 40 R&B single "I Just Can't Walk Away" (#71 on Billboard Top 100). Two more albums followed including 1985's "Magic" and 1986's "Hot Nights." But the group and label began to quarrel about marketing and musical direction. The Tops left Motown again and signed on with Arista records, this time buying back the masters they had recorded (for an album in progress). The result was the album called "Indestructible" and the title track would prove to be their last Top 40 hit (#33 in 1988).

However, since the late 80's, the Four Tops have focused on touring, live performances and television and motion pictures. Their last LP was 1995's "Christmas Here With You" and when 59 year-old Lawrence Payton died in 1997, the forty year career of this legendary Motown group tried to carry on as a trio (the group has never had a line up change until then) the longest run of any group in rock history". In 1988, former Temptation Theo Peoples joined on to restore the group to a quartet once again. In 2000, Stubbs had become ill with cancer and Peoples took over as lead singer. Singer Obie Benson died in 2005 and ex-lead singer Levi Stubbs passed away in October of 2008 (still residing in Detroit).

Interestingly, Stubbs was a natural baritone and most of the group's hits were written in the tenor range lending to a sense of urgency in his vocal style and making their definitive Four Tops' sound. His powerful, expressive voice was an inspiration to many other vocal groups and his good nature and soulful voice will be missed by millions.

The Four Tops were one of Motown's most successful male soul acts. Their legendary career has inspired many soul artists and their music will be forever remembered.
The Four Tops group photo
Clockwise from top left,
Obie Benson, Abdul Fakir, Lawrence Payton, Levi Stubbs

Four Tops in 1967
Four Tops 1967

The Four Tops

Levi Stubbs
Levi Stubbs

Early releases:
1956 "If Only I Had Known / ?" (Grady Records, credited as "The Four Aims")
1956 "Could It Be You? / Kiss Me, Baby" (Chess)
1960 "Ain't That Love / Lonely Summer" (Columbia Records, reissued in 1965)
1962 "Pennies from Heaven / Where Are You?" (Riverside Records)

Motown releases:
1964 "Baby I Need Your Loving / Call on Me"
1964 "Without the One You Love (Life's Not Worthwhile) / Love Has Gone"
1965 "Ask the Lonely / Where Did You Go"
1965 "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) / Sad Souvenirs"
1965 "It's the Same Old Song / Your Love Is Amazing"
1965 "Something About You / Darling, I Hum Our Song"
1966 "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over) / Just as Long as You Need Me"
1966 "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever / I Like Everything About You"
1966 "Reach Out I'll Be There / Until You Love Someone"
1966 "Standing in the Shadows of Love / Since You've Been Gone"
1967 "Bernadette / I Got a Feeling"
1967 "7-Rooms of Gloom / I'll Turn to Stone"
1967 "You Keep Running Away / If You Don't Want My Love"
1968 "If I Were a Carpenter / Wonderful Baby"
1968 "Walk Away Renée / Your Love Is Wonderful"
1968 "Yesterday's Dreams / For Once in My Life"
1968 "I'm in a Different World / Remember When"
1969 "Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me / The Key"
1969 "What Is A Man / Don't Bring Back Memories"
1969 "Do What You Gotta Do / Can't Seem to Get You Out of My Mind"
1970 "It's All In The Game / Love (Is the Answer)"
1970 "Still Water (Love) / Still Water (Peace)"
1971 "MacArthur Park (Part 1) / MacArthur Park (Part 2)"
1971 "In These Changing Times / Right Before My Eyes"
1971 "Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life) / I Wish I Were Your Mirror"
1971 "River Deep - Mountain High" / Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music (w/The Supremes)
1971 "A Taste of Honey / Knock on My Door (w/The Supremes)
1971 "You Gotta Have Love In Your Heart / I'm Glad About It" (w/The Supremes)
1972 "Melodie / Good Lovin' Ain't Easy to Come By" (w/The Supremes)
1972 "Without the One You Love / Let's Make Love Now" (w/The Supremes)
1972 "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand) / Where Would I Be Without You, Baby" (w/The Supremes)
1972 "(It's the Way) Nature Planned It / I'll Never Change"
1972 "A Simple Game / L.A. (My Town)"
1972 "I'll Turn to Stone / Love Feels Like Fire"
1972 "I Can't Quit Your Love / Happy (Is a Bumpy Road)"
1983 "I Just Can't Walk Away / Hang"
1985 "Sexy Ways / Body and Soul"
1985 "Don't Tell Me That It's Over / I'm Ready for Love"

ABC-Dunhill releases:
1972 "Keeper of the Castle / Jubilee with Soul"
1973 "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got) / The Good Lord Knows"
1973 "Are You Man Enough / Peace of Mind"
1973 "Sweet Understanding Love / Main Street People"
1974 "I Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind / Am I My Brother's Keeper?"
1974 "Midnight Flower / All My Love"
1974 "One Chain Don't Make No Prison / Light of Your Love"
1975 "Seven Lonely Nights / I Can't Hold On Much Longer"
1975 "We All Gotta Stick Together / (It Would Almost) Drive Me Out of My Mind"
1975 "I'm Glad You Walked Into My Life / Mama, You're Alright with Me"
1976 "Catfish / Look at My Baby"

Casablanca releases:
1981 "When She Was My Girl / Something to Remember"
1981 "Don't Walk Away / I'll Never Ever Leave You Again"
1981 "Tonight I'm Gonna Love You All Over / I'll Never Leave Again"
1982 "Let Me Set You Free / From a Distance"
1982 "Back To School Again" / Rock-A-Hula Luau (by 'Grease 2' cast)
1982 "Sad Hearts / I Believe In You And Me"

Arista releases:
1988 "If Ever a Love There Was" (with Aretha Franklin)
1988 "Indestructible / Are You With Me"
1989 "Change of Heart / Loco in Acapulco"

Baby I Need Your Loving single sleeve

I Can't Help Myself single sleeve

It's The Same Old Song single sleeve

Reach Out (I'll Be There) single sleeve

Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got) single sleeve

Sweet Understanding Love single sleeve
The Four Tops
Motown logo

Baby I Need Your Loving
Without The One You Love (Life's Not Worthwhile)
Where Did You Go
Ask The Lonely
Your Love Is Amazing
Sad Souvenirs
Don't Turn Away
Tea House In China Town
Left With A Broken Heart
Love Has Gone
Call On Me

The Four Tops - album cover
Four Tops' Second Album
Motown logo

I Can't Help Myself
Love Feels Like Like Fire
Is There Anything That I Can Do?
Something About You
It's The Same Old Song
Just As Long As You Need Me
I Hum Our Song
I Like Everything About You
Since You've Been Gone
Stay In My Lonely Arms
I'm Grateful

Four Tops' Second Album - album cover
On Top
Motown logo

I Got A Feeling
Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)
Until You Love Someone
There's No Love Left
Matchmaker, Matchmaker
In The Still Of The Night
Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars

On Top - album cover
Four Tops Live!
Motown logo

It's The Same Old Song
It's Not Unusual
Baby I Need Your Loving
Reach Out (I'll Be There)
I'll Turn To Stone
I Left My Heart In San Francisco
You Can't Hurry Love
Ask The Lonely
Climb Ev'ry Mountain
The Girl From Ipanema
If I Had A Hammer
I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)
I Like Everything About You

Four Tops Live! - album cover
On Broadway
Motown logo

Hello Broadway
Climb Ev'ry Mountain
I Want To Be With You
On the Street Where You Live
The Sound of Music
What Did I Have That I Don't Have
For Once in My Life
My Way
Make Someone Happy
Nice 'n' Easy

On Broadway - album cover
Reach Out
Motown logo

Reach Out (I'll Be There)
Walk Away Renee
7 Rooms Of Gloom
If I Were A Carpenter
Last Train To Clarksville
I'll Turn To Stone
I'm A Believer
Standing In The Shadows Of Love
Wonderful Baby
What Else Is There To Do (But Think About You)?

Reach Out - album cover
Yesterday's Dreams
Motown logo

Yesterday's Dreams
Can't Seem To Get You Out Of My Mind
I'm In A Different World
We've Got A Strong Love (On Our Side)
By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Remember When
Never My Love
Daydream Believer
Once Upon A Time
The Sweetheart Tree
A Place In The Sun

Yesterday's Dreams - album cover
The Four Tops Now!
Motown logo

The Key
What Is A Man
My Past Just Crossed My Future
Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me
Eleanor Rigby
Little Green Apples
Do What You Gotta Do
MacArthur Park
Don't Bring Back Memories
Wish I Didn't Love You So
Opportunity Knocks (For Me)
The Fool On The Hill

The Four Tops Now! - album cover
Soul Spin
Motown logo

Look Out Your Window
Barbara's Boy
Lost In A Pool Of Red
Got To Get You Into My Life
Stop The World
This Guys In Love With You
Light My Fire
The Look Of Love
California Dreaming

Soul Spin - album cover
Still Waters Run Deep
Motown logo

Still Water (Love)
It's All In The Game
Everybody's Talking
Love Is The Answer
I Wish I Were Your Mirror
Elusive Butterfly
Bring Me Together
LA (My Town)
Still Water (Peace)

Still Waters Run Deep - album cover
Changing Times
Motown logo

In These Changing Times
Just Seven Numbers
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
Right Before My Eyes
I Almost Had Her (But She Got Away)
Try To Remember
Something's Tearing At The Edges Of Time
Sing A Song Of Yesterday
The Long And Winding Road

Changing Time - album cover
The Magnificent Seven (The Supremes & Four Tops)
Motown logo

Knock on My Door
For Your Love
Without the One You Love
Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)
Stone Soul Picnic
Baby (You've Got What It Takes)
River Deep Mountain High
Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing
Everyday People
It's Got to Be a Miracle (This Thing Called Love)
Taste of Honey
Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music

The Magnificent Seven (The Supremes and Four Tops) - album cover
The Return of the Magnificent Seven (The Supremes & Four Tops)
Motown logo

You Gotta Have Love in Your Heart
I Wonder Where We're Going
Call Me
One More Bridge to Cross
If You Could See Me Now
I'll Try Not to Cry
I'm Glad About It
Let's Make Love Now
I Can't Believe You Love Me
Where Would I Be Without You Baby
What Do You Have to Do (To Stay on the Right Side of Love)

The Return of the Magnificent Seven - album cover
Dynamite! (The Supremes & Four Tops)
Motown logo

It's Impossible
The Bigger You Love, the Harder You Fall
Hello Stranger
Love the One You're With
Good Lovin' Ain't Easy to Come By
If I Could Build My Whole World Around You
Don't Let Me Lose This Dream
Do You Love Me Just a Little, Honey

Dynamite! - album cover
Nature Planned It
Motown logo

I Am Your Man
(It's The Way) Nature Planned It
I'll Never Change
She's An Understanding Woman
I Can't Quit Your Love
Walk With Me Talk With Me Darling
We Got To Get You A Woman
You Got To Forget Him Darling
If You Let Me
Happy (Is A Bumpy Road)
How Will I Forget You

Nature Planned It - album cover
Keeper of the Castle

Keeper Of The Castle
Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)
Put A Little Love Away
Turn On The Light Of Your Love
When Tonight Meets Tomorrow
Love Music
Remember What I Told You To Forget
(I Think I Must Be) Dreaming
The Good Lord Knows
Jubilee With Paul
Love Makes You Human
Keeper Of The Castle (Reprise)

Keeper of the Castle - album cover
Main Street People

Main Street People (Intro)
I Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind
It Won't Be The First Time
Sweet Understanding Love
Am I My Brother's Keeper?
Are You Man Enough?
Whenever There's Blue
Too Little Too Late
Peace Of Mind
One Woman Man
Main Street People

Main Street People - album cover
Live & In Concert

Intro & Countdown Are You Man Enough?
Love Ain't Easy To Come By
Love Music/Reach Out I'll Be There/Standing In The Shadows Of Love
Midnight Flower
Baby I Need Your Lovin'
Keeper Of The Castle
I Am Your Man
Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)
One Chain (Don't Make No Prison)
I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

Four Tops, Live and In Concert, 1974 - album cover
Meeting of the Minds

One Chain Don't Make No Prison
Midnight Flower
The Well Is Dry
Love Ain't Easy To Come By
No Sad Songs
Right On Brother
Tell Me You Love Me (Love Sounds)
All My Love
I Found The Spirit
Meeting Of The Minds

Meeting of the Minds - album cover
Night Lights Harmony

Way Down
Borrowing Thoughts
Love Is What I Need
Peter Piper
Crystal Springs
Come To See My Lady
Lay Down Sheep

Night Lights Harmony - album cover

Feel Free
You Can't Hold Back On Love
I Know You Like It
Strung Out For Your Love
Love Don't Come Easy
Disco Daddy
Look At My Baby

Catfish - album cover
The Show Must Go On

Show Must Go On
Can't Live Without You
Save It For A Rainy Day
Running From Your Love
See The Real Me
Love Is A Joy
You'll Never Find A Better Man

The Show Must Go On - album cover
At the Top

Bits And Pieces
Put It On The News
This House
Just In Time
Inside A Brokenhearted Man
When Your Dreams Take Wings And Fly

At the Top - album cover

When She Was My Girl
Don't Walk Away
I'm Gonna Love You
Who's Right, Who's Wrong?
Let Me Set You Free
Something To Remember
From A Distance
All I Do
I'll Never Ever Leave Again

Tonight! - album cover
One More Mountain!

Sad Hearts
One More Mountain To Climb
Givin' It Up
I Believe In You And Me
I'm The One
Keep On Lightin' My Fire
Nobody's Gonna Love You Like I Do
Dream On
Whatever It Is

One More Mountain! - album cover
Back Where I Belong
Motown logo

Make Yourself Right At Home
I Just Can't Walk Away
Sail On
Back Where I Belong
What Have We Got To Lose?
The Masquerade Is Over
Body And Soul

Back Where I Belong - album cover
Motown logo

I Can Feel The Magic
Don't Tell Me That It's Over
Sexy Ways
Easier Said Than Done
Don't Turn Away
I'm Ready For Love
Remember Me
Maybe Tomorrow

Magic - album cover
Hot Nights
Motown logo

Hot Nights
Red Hot Love
I Believe In You And Me
Let's Jam
We Got Bus'ness
This Is Love
So Up For You
Livin It Up Too Much
The Four Of Us

Hot Nights - album cover
Arista logo

Change of Heart
If Ever a Love There Was
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine
Next Time
Loco in Acapulco
Are You With Me
I'm Only Wounded
When You Dance
Let's Jam

Indestructible - album cover
Christmas Here With You
Motown logo

Christmas Here With You
White Christmas
The Christmas Song
Away In A Manger
This Christmas
Silent Night
Little Drummer Boy
Christmas Delight
Merry Christmas, Baby
Merry Christmas To You
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Christmas Here With You - album cover
1. Reach Out, I'll Be There
2. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)
3. Baby, I Need Your Lovin'
4. It's The Same Old Song
5. Bernadette
6. Ask The Lonely
7. Standing In The Shadows Of Love
8. Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)
9. 7 Rooms Of Gloom
10. Something About You
11. Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)
12. When She Was My Girl
13. Keeper of the Castle
14. Walk Away Renée
15. Still Water (Love)
16. I Believe In You And Me
17. I'll Turn To Stone
18. Without The One You Love
19. Are You Man Enough
20. I Got A Feeling
Placements On DigitalDreamDoor Lists
(as of 01/04/2020):
• Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artists of the 60s
   27. The Four Tops
• Greatest R&B Artists
   24. The Four Tops
• Greatest Male'R&B/Soul Vocalists
   8. Levi Stubbs
• Greatest Motown Songs
   3. Reach Out I'll Be There
   21. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)
   26. Baby I Need Your Lovin'
   70. Bernadette
   73. It's the Same Old Song
• Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Songs of the '60s
   38. Reach Out, I'll Be There
   111. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)
   146. Baby I Need Your Lovin'
   275. Ask The Lonely
• Greatest 'Classic' R&B/Soul Songs
   18. Reach Out, I'll Be There
   81. Standing In The Shadows Of Love
   148. Bernadette
• Greatest 'Classic' R&B/Soul Ballads
   91. Still Water
• Greatest Beach Music Songs
   37. Baby I Need Your Lovin'
   64. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)
   93. I Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind
• Greatest Motown Albums
   20. Four Tops' Second Album
   27. Four Tops
   82. On Top
• Greatest Soul Albums
   32. Reach Out
   52. The Four Tops Second Album
   76. Four Tops

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