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The Four Tops

The Four Tops' story is one of longevity and togetherness: these Motown legends teamed up in high school and spent over four decades without a single personnel change. In between, they became one of the top-tier acts on a label with no shortage of talent, ranking with the Temptations and the Supremes as Motown's most consistent hitmakers. Where many other R&B vocal groups spotlighted a tenor-range lead singer, the Four Tops were fronted by deep-voiced Levi Stubbs, who never cut a solo record outside of the group. Stubbs had all the grit of a pleading, wailing, gospel-trained soul belter, but at the same time, the Tops' creamy harmonies were smooth enough for Motown's radio-friendly pop-soul productions. From 1964-1967, the Four Tops recorded some of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team's greatest compositions, including "Reach Out, I'll Be There," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "Standing in the Shadows of Love," "Bernadette," and "Baby I Need Your Loving." The group's fortunes took a downturn when their chief source of material left the label, but they enjoyed a renaissance in the early '70s, which saw them switching to the ABC-Dunhill imprint. Regardless of commercial fortunes, they kept on performing and touring, scoring the occasional comeback hit.

The Four Tops began life in 1953 (some accounts say 1954), when all of the members were attending Detroit-area high schools. Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir went to Pershing, and met Northern students Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton at a friend's birthday party, where the quartet members first sang together. Sensing an immediate chemistry, they began rehearsing together and dubbed themselves the Four Aims. Payton's cousin Roquel Davis, a budding songwriter who sometimes sang with the group during its early days, helped them get an audition with Chess Records in 1956. Although Chess was more interested in Davis, who went on to become Berry Gordy's songwriting partner, they also signed the Four Aims, who became the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers. The Four Tops' lone Chess single, "Kiss Me Baby," was an unequivocal flop, and the group moved on to similarly brief stints at Red Top and Riverside. They signed with Columbia in 1960 and were steered in a more upscale supper-club direction, singing jazz and pop standards. This too failed to break them, although they did tour with Billy Eckstine during this period.

In 1963, the Four Tops signed with longtime friend Berry Gordy's new label, specifically the jazz-oriented Workshop subsidiary. They completed a debut LP, to be called Breaking Through, but Gordy scrapped it and switched their style back to R&B, placing them on Motown with the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team. After a full decade in existence, the Four Tops finally notched their first hit in 1964 with "Baby I Need Your Loving," which just missed the pop Top Ten. Early 1965 brought the follow-up ballad hit "Ask the Lonely," and from then on there was no stopping them. "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" went all the way to number one that spring, and the follow-up "It's the Same Old Song" reached the Top Five. The hits continued into 1966, with "Something About You" "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)," and "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" all coming in succession. The fall of 1966 brought the group's masterpiece in the form of the virtual soul symphony "Reach Out, I'll Be There"; not only did it become their second number one pop hit, it also wound up ranking as the creative peak of the group's career and one of Motown's finest singles ever. During this period, the Tops also earned a reputation as one of Motown's best live acts, having previously honed their performances for years before hitting the big time.

The Four Tops kicked off 1967 with the dramatic Top Ten smash "Standing in the Shadows of Love," which was followed by the Top Five "Bernadette." "7-Rooms of Gloom" and "You Keep Running Away" reached the Top 20, but toward the end of the year, Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown over a financial dispute, which didn't bode well for the Four Tops' impressive hit streak. Their next two hits, 1968's "Walk Away Renee" and "If I Were a Carpenter," were both covers of well-known recent songs (by the Left Banke and Tim Hardin, respectively), and while both made the Top 20, they heralded a rough couple of years when top-drawer material was in short supply. They enjoyed a resurgence in 1970 under producer Frank Wilson, who helmed a hit cover of the Tommy Edwards pop standard "It's All in the Game" and a ballad co-written by Smokey Robinson, "Still Water (Love)." The Tops also recorded with the post-Diana Ross Supremes, scoring a duet hit with a cover of "River Deep, Mountain High" in 1971.

When Motown moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1972, the Four Tops parted ways with the company, choosing to remain in their hometown of Detroit. They signed with ABC-Dunhill and were teamed with producers/songwriters Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who did their best to re-create the group's trademark Motown sound. The immediate result was "Keeper of the Castle," the Four Tops' first Top Ten hit in several years. They followed it in early 1973 with "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)," a gold-selling smash that proved to be their final Top Five pop hit. That year they also recorded the theme song to the film Shaft in Africa, "Are You Man Enough." Several more R&B chart hits followed over the next few years, with the last being 1976's "Catfish"; after a final ABC album in 1978, the Tops largely disappeared from sight before resurfacing on Casablanca in 1981. Incredibly, their first single, "When She Was My Girl," went all the way to number one on the R&B charts, just missing the pop Top Ten. The accompanying album, Tonight!, became their last to hit the Top 40.

The Four Tops rejoined Motown in 1983, the year of the company's 25th anniversary, and toured extensively with the Temptations. They also recorded a couple albums of new material that failed to sell well, and wound up leaving Motown amid confusion over proper musical direction. Meanwhile, Levi Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey the man-eating plant in the film version of Little Shop of Horrors. The Four Tops next caught on with Arista, where in 1988 they scored their last Top 40 pop hit, the aptly titled "Indestructible." The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and continued to tour the oldies circuit. In 1997, Lawrence Payton passed away due to cancer of the liver, which proved to be the only thing that could break up the Four Tops. After some consideration, the remaining members hired Theo Peoples to take Payton's place on tour. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Fourever

Disc 1

6. Where Did You Go

7. Without The One You Love (Life's Not Worth While)

8. Left With A Broken Heart

9. Ask The Lonely

13. It's The Same Old Song

14. Is There Anything That I Can Do

15. Something About You

17. Just As Long As You Need Me

18. Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)

19. Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever

21. For Once In My Life

22. Barbara's Boy

Disc 2

1. Reach Out I'll Be There

2. Standing In The Shadows Of Love

3. Bernadette

4. 7 Rooms Of Gloom

6. You Keep Running Away

7. Walk Away Renee

8. Your Love Is Wonderful

9. If I Were A Carpenter

12. Yesterday's Dreams

13. Can't Seem To Get You Out Of My Mind

14. I'm In A Different World

15. What Is A Man

17. Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me

18. Do What You Gotta Do

19. MacArthur Park

21. Nothing

22. Barbara's Boy

Disc 3

1. It's All In The Game

2. Love (Is The Answer)

7. Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)

8. In These Changing Times

9. A Simple Game

11. So Deep Within You

12. I Can't Quit Your Love

13. (It's The Way) Nature Planned It

14. Keeper Of The Castle

15. Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)

16. Love Music

17. Remember What I Told You To Forget

18. Are You Man Enough

19. Sweet Understanding Love

20. I Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind

21. One Woman Man

Disc 4

1. One Chain Don't Make No Prison

3. Seven Lonely Nights

4. We All Gotta Stick Together

5. Catfish

6. For Your Love

7. When She Was My Girl

9. I Believe In You And Me

11. I Just Can't Walk Away

12. Sexy Ways

16. Loco In Acapulco


Track List: Essential Collection

1. Baby I Need Your Loving

2. Ask The Lonely

3. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

4. It's The Same Old Song

5. Reach Out I'll Be There

6. Standing In The Shadows Of Love

7. Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)

8. Bernadette

9. Walk Away Renee

10. You Keep Running Man

11. If I Were A Carpenter

12. Still Water (Love)

13. It's All In The Game

14. (It's The Way) Nature Planned It

15. Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)

16. Keeper Of The Castle (Album Version)

17. Are You Man Enough

18. Sweet Understanding Love

19. One Chain Don't Make No Prison

20. Midnight Flower

21. Catfish

22. When She Was My Girl

23. I Just Can't Walk Away

24. I Believe In You And Me


Track List: Breaking Through

1. This Can't Be Love

2. On The Street Where You Live

3. Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You

4. Nice 'N' Easy

5. Maybe Today

6. Stranger On The Shore

7. Young And Foolish

8. Discovered

9. I Left My Heart In San Francisco

10. Fascinating Rhythm

11. End Of A Beautiful Friendship

12. If My Heart Could Sing

13. Can't Get Out Of This Mood

14. When I'm Alone I Cry

15. Until I Met You

16. I'm Falling For You

17. Every Day I Have The Blues/Goin' To Chicago Blues

18. I Could Have Danced All Night

19. I'm Falling For You (Live At The Apollo)


Track List: Their Greatest Love Songs

1. Baby I Need Your Loving

2. Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)

3. It's All In The Game

4. Without The One You Love (Life's Not Worthwile)

5. Put A Little Love Away

6. (It's The Way) Nature Planned It

7. Still Water (Love)

8. Love Music

9. Midnight Flower

10. Sweet Understanding Love

11. I Believe In You And Me

12. You Can't Hold Back On Love

13. Strung Out For Your Love

14. When She Was My Girl


Track List: The Ultimate Collection

1. Reach Out I'll Be There

2. Standing In The Shadows Of Love

3. Bernadette

4. Ask The Lonely

5. Baby I Need Your Loving

6. Without The One You Love (Life's Not Worth While)

7. It's The Same Old Song

8. Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever

9. I Can't Help Myself (Suger Pie, Honey Bunch)

10. Something About You

11. I Got A Feeling

12. I'm In A Different World

13. Walk Away Renee

14. What Is A Man

15. A Simple Game

16. Still Water (Love)

17. (It's The Way) Nature Planned It

18. It's All In The Game

19. You Keep Running Away

20. If You Don't Want My Love

21. 7-Rooms Of Gloom

22. I'll Turn To Stone

23. Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)

24. Sad Souvenirs

25. Yesterday's Dreams


Track List: The Four Tops Greatest Hits

1. Reach Out I'll Be There

2. Baby I Need Your Loving

3. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

4. Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)

5. It's All In The Game

6. Same Old Song

7. Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)

8. Bernadette

9. Shake Me, Wake Me

10. You Keep Running Away

11. Something About You

12. Walk Away Renee


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Sugar pie honey bunch u know that I love u I can't help my self I love u and no body else
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Just not sure how to deal w/ all of these emotions.
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This is mutual.
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Hey !what can say weak for you sugar baby,melt me little Carmel girl.
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i wish they were still alive - can u imagine them pergorming at the super bowl
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Bernadette I need you to live
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Sugar Pie Honeybunch
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I love these guys!
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Still Water....lov e this song. Nothing like old school..Four Tops timless
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Just saw them in concert last night WOW!!
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Bernadette is also my favorite song by the Four Tops. :-)
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Bernadette -- what a soulful song. My favorite Four Tops song.
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Way back from my old school to along time ago I love oldie's but goodies alot to
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Jenny this one for you
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Pure 70's sound...clas s i c
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They did songs that always put you in romantic mood even if you were mad at the one you were with!!!!!!!
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I love the 4top
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Say Ariana 5 times and then clap 3 times then post this on to other stations and the check your voice
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who else but the Tops could make u want to dance on Saturday morning - feeling feeling - none of the rubbish played today can make u feel like that
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You'll be kissed by the love of your life on the nearest Friday. If you don't post this on 5 other songs in 143 minutes you'll die in 2 days
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Wow 4-tops platter spinning! Any of you girls want to dance?
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...Dance to the music...roma n c e to the music. Good ol' musical times.
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I already did!!
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Love those guys!! Good music !! From Good old days make remember! All the Good times when Mom & Dad & grandma & All my sweet Auntie! Oh so many members!! Love & peaceful DAY'S OH! HOW I REALLY MISS. THEM! .
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Love love love loooovve this song �� they don't make music like this no more. When you get the goosebumps feel it in your guts!
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Sorry. Detroit .
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Cool dudes of ditroit no question about it Michigan dude
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Best group of Motown
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Ain't No Woman Like The One I've Got........I s about my wife of 50 years.....i AM one very lucky man!
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They suck.
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The testimony of a "Blessed Man!"....
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doesnt get better than the tops - they still make me want to dance - check out motown 25 anniversary on PBS you will love it
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This is singing love them
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Love Bettye Everett!
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Shepherded schedule execute
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Timeless a one of a kind foursome. A beautiful sound.Soft and easy. Very smooth.
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Standing In The Shadows Of fave Four Tops song
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LMNO (laugh my nuggets off)
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THE best
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bernadette.d a v e n p o r t
They were one of the best and well respected groups to help Motown be what it became. Of course my favorite song is Bernadette
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Sugar pie honey bun is the best comment or friend me if you agree or like the song
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I love all oldies but goodies
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How true this is from then to today
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Oldies music to me is the best. No filthy words, just plain loving music!
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i think the congress here in dc should be made to listen to the tops until there arrogant asses can agree bout something how about that
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