Four Tops

The Four Tops were an American soul group from Detroit, formed in 1953.

Members: Abdul “Duke” Fakir (first tenor vocals), Renaldo “Obie” Benson (baritone, bass vocals, 1953-2005), Levi Stubbs (lead vocals, 1953-2000), Lawrence Payton (second tenor vocals, lead vocals, 1953-97)

The Four Tops assembled in 1953 Detroit when two students at Pershing High, Levi Stubbs and Abdul “Duke” Fakir, teamed with two students from nearby Northern High, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton, for a one-off performance at a birthday party. The four liked the experience and decided to keep the act going. They initially named themselves the Four Aims before settling on the Four Tops (to avoid confusion with pop-vocal group the Ames Brothers).

The Tops made their recording debut behind singer Carolyn Hayes on the 1955 Chateau single “Baby Say You Love Me” (b/w “Really”). Their own first single, “Kiss Me Baby” (b/w “Could It Be You”), appeared on Chess in 1956. During the next seven years, the group toured the supper club circuit and issued the 1962 single “Where You Are” (b/w “Pennies From Heaven”), on Riverside Records. In 1963, Berry Gordy, Jr. signed the Four Tops to Motown, where they first sang backup on The Supremes single “Run, Run, Run.”

In July 1964, the Four Tops issued the single “Baby, I Need Your Loving,” their first in a series of hits written by Holland–Dozier–Holland. They followed it over the next six months with “Without the One You Love (Life’s Not Worth While)” and “Ask the Lonely.” All three are included on their eponymous debut album, released that year.

They scored their first chart-topper with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” in June 1965, followed by the soundalike “It’s the Same Old Song.” On these and other singles from the period — “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)” and “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” — they were backed by Motown houseband the Funk Brothers. The aptly titled Second Album contains “I Can’t Help Myself” and another 1965 single, “Something About You.”

In August 1966, the Four Tops unleashed the resoundingly popular “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” their first in a trifecta of melodramatic love anthems. It was followed that November by “Standing in the Shadows of Love” and the winter 1967 hit “Bernadette.” All three songs are included on their 1967 album Reach Out along with a subsequent single (“7 Rooms of Gloom“) and covers of Tim Hardin (“If I Were a Carpenter“) and the Left Banke (“Walk Away Renee“).


  • Four Tops (1965)
  • Second Album (1965)
  • 4 Tops on Top (1966)
  • 4 Tops on Broadway (1967)
  • Reach Out (1967)
  • Yesterday’s Dreams (1968)
  • Four Tops Now! (1969)
  • Soul Spin (1969)
  • Still Waters Run Deep (1970)
  • The Magnificent 7 (1970 • The Supremes & The Four Tops)
  • Changing Times (1970)
  • The Return of the Magnificent Seven (1971 • The Supremes & The Four Tops)
  • Dynamite (1971 • The Supremes & The Four Tops)
  • Nature Planned It (1972 • The 4 Tops)
  • Keeper of the Castle (1972)
  • Main Street People (1973)
  • Meeting of the Minds (1974)
  • Night Lights Harmony (1975)
  • Catfish (1976)
  • The Show Must Go On (1977)
  • At the Top (1978)
  • Tonight! (1981)
  • One More Mountain (1982)
  • Back Where I Belong (1983)
  • Magic (1985)
  • Hot Nights (1986)
  • Indestructible (1988)


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