The death of Levi Stubbs came as a surprise to Abdul “Duke” Fakir, who was performing shows with the Four Tops in Nevada when it happened last weekend. “It seemed like the world really loved him” he said on Monday. “He had one of the best voices, ever. He could take any kind of song and take you with him. He had that kind of power and love for the lyrics.”
Stubbs, who died in his sleep at his Detroit home, was the lead baritone singer of the original Tops. Thanks to him, they became one of the founding corner groups of Motown during the 1960s with classics such as “Baby I Need Your Loving”, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There” — both of which went to number one on the Pop and R&B charts.
“Levi was the voice, Obie was the spirit, Lawrence was the harmony, somebody said I was the sound because of my tenor, the way it would carry some things” Fakir states, who’s now the remaining survivor of the original lineup.
Stubbs has been retired from the road since 2000, and spent the last several years confined to a wheelchair due to several strokes. Fakir, who has known Stubbs since high school and the starting of the Four Tops, couldn’t believe that his friend was gone — especially since he visited him a week ago.
“He was looking better than he had been looking” Fakir explains. “His face was fuller, and he was laughing. I ran home and told my wife how good he was looking. But he went quietly in his sleep and that brought a lot of peace to everybody, that he didn’t do a lot of suffering.”
It now has been confirmed that the funeral service of Stubbs has been set on this Monday at Greater Grace Temple on West Seven Mile Road in Detroit at 11am. The Queen of Soul herself Aretha Franklin, who did a duet with Stubbs for the Tops’ 50th anniversary celebration at the Detroit Opera House in 2004, gave a statement:
“He was a close family friend – he and my brother were great friends and he and my sister Erma were great friends” she states. “They came along together, and then, of course, he and I and The Tops became friends … He was a man’s man, the kind of man that men and women appreciate, which is kind of rare. He was the kind of artist that men and women both appreciated and loved, and he truly was a master of soul at what he did. We are really going to miss him.”