Introduction and Early Life:
Levi Stubbs was an American singer and voice actor, best known as the lead vocalist of the R&B group the Four Tops. His strong stage presence and powerful, passionate vocal style made the group one of Motown’s most successful acts in the 1960s. Stubbs was also an accomplished voice artist and has lent his voice in various films and animated television series.
Born in 1936 in Detroit, Michigan, he was the cousin of Jackie Wilson. Stubbs attended Detroit Pershing High School, where he met Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton. They formed a vocal group called the Four Aims in 1954, which eventually became the Four Tops after securing a recording contract with Chess Records in 1956.
Career and Musical Achievements:
The rich baritone of Levis Stubbs was noted for its sheer power, raw energy and passion. Partly due to his voice quality, the music of Four Tops exuded tremendous elegance, sophistication and emotional intensity. He wasn’t just an ordinary Motown smooth crooner. Hit singles such as “Baby I Need Your Loving”, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “I Can’t Help Myself” leave no question of his vocal mastery. The group remained together and scored more than 50 hits until Payton’s unfortunate death in 1997.
Stubbs received numerous offers for solo work but he refused all of them out of loyalty to his bandmates. He preferred to remain in the shadows and even let other members do the talking in press interviews. When he was asked to play the role of Louis McKay opposite Diana Ross in 1972’s Lady Sings the Blues by Motown head Berry Gordy, he also turned it down citing personal reasons.
Stubbs suffered a stroke in 2000. He had been battling cancer since 1995. He died in his sleep at his Detroit home in 2008. Stubbs was 72 years old.
Awards and Accolades:
As a member of the Four Tops, Levi Stubbs was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
Levi Stubbs married Clineice Townsend in 1960. The couple remained married for 48 years until his death in 2008. They had five children.