Birthday: June 6, 1936
Died At Age: 72
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Levi Stubbles
Born Country: United States
Born in: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Famous as: Baritone Singer
Height: 5'11" (180 cm), 5'11" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Clineice Townsend
children: Beverly Stubbs, Deborah Stubbs, Kelly Stubbs, Levi Jr. Stubbs, Raymond Stubbs
Died on: October 17, 2008
City: Detroit, Michigan
U.S. State: Michigan, African-American From Michigan
Who was Levi Stubbs?
Levi Stubbs was an American baritone singer, best known as one of the members of the R&B group Four Tops. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Levi was interested in music ever since he was in high school. He formed a musical group with his classmate Abdul Fakir and two others in 1954, named Four Aims. In 1956, the group had a big break when they were signed on a contract by Chess Records, which marked their true beginning in the American musical scene. For the next few years the group remained unsuccessful, hopping from label to label. Things changed drastically in 1964, when the group signed with Motown Records. They released their debut self titled album in 1964, which was a massive success. For the next decade, Levi gained a huge fan following owing to his emotional and intense way of singing songs. Some of group’s charts topping singles are ‘Reach Out I’ll be There’, ‘When She Was My Girl’, ‘Standing in the Shadows of Love’ and ‘I Can’t Help Myself’. Levi has been honoured with many awards throughout his career, such as an induction in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy Hall of Fame and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Childhood & Early Life
Levi Stubbs was born Levi Stubbles, on June 6, 1936, in Detroit, Michigan, USA to Daisy and Levi Stubbles. He grew up as one among three children and had a brother Joe Stubbs and a sister Thelma growing up. His little brother Joe went on becoming a popular singer as well. In addition, Levi’s cousin was Jackie Wilson, a popular soul singer.
With his family deeply connected with music, it was only obvious for Levi to get charmed by it. He began singing when he was young and became serious about a career in music when he was in high school.
He attended Detroit Pershing High School, where he was classmates with Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir. They brought two of their music enthusiast friends, Renaldo Benson and Lawrence Payton, onboard and laid the foundation of a musical group named Four Aims.
Four Aims began small and performed their first gig at a birthday party. They eventually moved on to performing at local bars and clubs. Eventually, they began approaching music labels and ended up signing a record deal with Chess Records in 1956, and thus began their career.
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As they signed with Chess Records, they changed their group name to Four Tops. For the next few years, the group recorded many songs for Chess Records, without any success.
They moved on to other records such as Columbia Records and Riverside Records, without any significant success to their name. However, they kept touring around the country and further polished their skills as performers.
One of their friends Berry Gordy Jr. owned Motown Records, which was in its earlier stages itself. But both Motown and Four Tops benefitted greatly with the partnership as their success was about to explode in the next few years.
It began with 1964’s single titled ‘Baby I Need Your Loving’ which, quite unexpectedly, reached the 11th spot on the Billboard Pop chart. The song was unusual for Four Tops as they were more into producing jazz tracks. But following the single’s success, they decided to work more in the pop genre.
In June 1965, the group released another single titled ‘I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch’, which turned out to be group’s first single to reach Billboard’s top spot. More chart topping singles followed and Four Tops was now quickly becoming one of the most recognized fresh talent in the pop music scene.
The group released their debut self titled album in mid 1960s and followed it with more albums. During mid to late 1960s, the group was producing more than atleast 2 albums each year consistently. Almost all albums were hits.
In 1967, the group released an album titled ‘Four Tops’ Greatest Hits’. The album was placed at 4th spot in the American music charts while it topped the British charts. Many of their albums performed better in UK than US.
Some singles such as ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ and ‘Standing in the Shadows of Love’, further became chart topping successes.
In 1972, the group broke apart from Motown and joined another label ABC. As they were getting more success, they also moved their operations from Detroit to Los Angeles, California, where they also tried to break into Hollywood.
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Under ABC-Dunhill Records, the group released their debut album titled ‘Keeper of the Castle’ and followed it with albums such as ‘Main Street People’ and ‘Catfish’.
After 1978, the group took a small break and returned in 1981 with Casablanca Records, releasing an album titled ‘Tonight!’ However, by that time, their charm had faded away and they struggled to remain relevant through the 1980s and the 1990s.
In the mid-1990s, Four Tops rejoined Motown Records briefly for a Christmas album but it did not work. Starting from late 1990s, the group’s focus shifted from recording in studios to performing live shows.
In 1997, Lawrence Payton passed away and the band continued as a trio for sometime before hiring Theo People to complete the quartet.
Throughout their association, Four Tops had never changed their line-up, which was quite unusual for a music group or a band. Levi was the most popular singer from the band and he received many offers to go solo, but he refused.
Awards & Honours
Levi Stubbs achieved great success with Four Tops. At the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, the group received The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. They were also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The group has also been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Vocal Group Hall of Fame. In addition, Rolling Stones magazine included Four Tops in their list of the 100 Great Artists of All Times. Billboard also bestowed the same honour on the group.
Levi Stubbs married Clineice in 1960 and the couple remained together until his death in 2008. The couple had five children together, along with 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Levi was diagnosed with cancer in 1995 and had a stroke in 2000. He stopped performing on-stage after that. He passed away on October 17, 2008, peacefully in his sleep, in his mansion. A memorial service was held 10 days later, which was attended by many artists from the music industry.