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Levi Stubbs

Levi Stubbs

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Levi Stubbles better known by the stage name
Stage name
A stage name, also called a showbiz name or screen name, is a pseudonym used by performers and entertainers such as actors, wrestlers, comedians, and musicians.-Motivation to use a stage name:...

 Levi Stubbs, was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 baritone
Baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

 singer, best known as the lead vocalist of the Motown R&B
Rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated to R&B, is a genre of popular African American music that originated in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a...

 group Four Tops
Four Tops
The Four Tops are an American vocal quartet, whose repertoire has included doo-wop, jazz, soul music, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, hard rock, and showtunes...

. He was also a voice artist, portraying villainous characters in films and animated television series, most famously having provided the voice of the alien
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 plant Audrey II in the musical horror film Little Shop of Horrors, and Mother Brain
Mother Brain
Mother Brain may refer to the following fictional characters:* Mother Brain , a main antagonist in the Metroid video game series, and the crossover fiction Captain N: The Game Master cartoon show based on it...

 in Captain N: The Game Master
Captain N: The Game Master
Captain N: The Game Master was an American animated television series that aired on television from 1989 to 1991 as part of the Saturday morning cartoon lineup on NBC. The show incorporated elements from many of the most popular Nintendo games of the time...

.

Career


Born in Detroit in 1936, Levi Stubbs began his professional singing career with friends Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton
Lawrence Payton
Lawrence Albert Payton was an American tenor, songwriter and record producer for the popular Motown quartet, the Four Tops....

, forming a singing group called The Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, after having signed with Chess Records
Chess Records
Chess Records was an American record label based in Chicago, Illinois. It specialized in blues, R&B, soul, gospel music, early rock and roll, and occasional jazz releases....

, the group changed their name to the Four Tops
Four Tops
The Four Tops are an American vocal quartet, whose repertoire has included doo-wop, jazz, soul music, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, hard rock, and showtunes...

. The name change was meant to avoid confusion with the then-popular Ames Brothers
Ames Brothers
The Ames Brothers were a singing quartet from Malden, Massachusetts, who were particularly famous in the 1950s for their traditional pop music hits.-Biography:The Ames Brothers got their beginning in Malden, where all four were born...

. The Four Tops began as a supper-club act before signing to Motown Records
Motown Records
Motown is a record label originally founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in Detroit, Michigan, United States, on April 14, 1960. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is also a nickname for Detroit...

 in 1963. By the end of the decade, the Four Tops had over a dozen hits. The most popular of their hits (all of which featured Stubbs on lead vocals) include "Baby I Need Your Loving
Baby I Need Your Loving
"Baby I Need Your Loving" is a 1964 hit single recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label. Written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song was the group's first Motown single and their first pop Top 20 hit, making it to number eleven on the Billboard Hot...

", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)", "It's the Same Old Song
It's the Same Old Song
"It's the Same Old Song" is a 1965 hit single recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label. Written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song is today one of The Tops' signature songs, and was notably created—from initial concept to commercial...

", "Reach Out I'll Be There
Reach Out I'll Be There
"Reach Out I'll Be There" is a 1966 hit song recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label. Written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song is one of the most well-known Motown tunes of the 1960s and is today considered The Tops' signature song...

", "Standing in the Shadows of Love
Standing in the Shadows of Love
"Standing in the Shadows of Love" is a 1966 hit single recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label. Written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song is one of the most well-known Motown tunes of the 1960s...

", "Bernadette
Bernadette (song)
"Bernadette" is a 1967 hit song recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label. Written and produced by Motown's main production team, Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song is one of the most well-known Motown tunes of the 1960s...

", "Still Water (Love)", "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)
Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)
"Ain't No Woman " is a 1973 hit single written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, released as a single by the Four Tops on the ABC/Dunhill record label, from the album Keeper of the Castle....

" as well as the late hit "Loco In Acapulco
Loco in Acapulco
"Loco in Acapulco" was a 1988 hit song by The Four Tops. It was written by Phil Collins and Lamont Dozier , for the film Buster that also starred Phil Collins in the title role...

". Although Stubbs was a natural baritone
Baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

, most Four Tops' hits were written in a tenor
Tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

 range to give the lead vocals a sense of urgency.
Despite being the most prominent member of the group, Stubbs refused to have separate billing (in contrast to other Motown acts such as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Diana Ross and the Supremes), and he also turned down several offers for a solo career, out of loyalty to his bandmates. Stubbs and the other Tops remained a team until Payton died in 1997, at which point Theo Peoples
Theo Peoples
Theo Peoples is an African-American R&B/soul singer. The son of a preacher, he was discovered by Ron Tyson and tapped to replace Richard Street in the long-lived Motown group The Temptations in 1992.His first recordings with the group were released in the box set Emperors of Soul where he sang lead...

 took his place. The Four Tops were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a museum located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It is dedicated to archiving the history of some of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers and others who have, in some major way,...

 in 1990, and have sold over 50 million records worldwide. In 2000, Theo Peoples replaced Stubbs as lead singer after Stubbs suffered a stroke, with Ronnie McNeir taking the place that Payton originally held. Benson died on July 1, 2005, leaving Duke Fakir as the only surviving member of The Four Tops' original lineup.

Although not an actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

, Levi Stubbs provided the voice of the carnivorous plant Audrey II in the 1986 movie version of the musical
Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

 Little Shop of Horrors
Little Shop of Horrors (1986 film)
Little Shop of Horrors is a 1986 American comedy musical film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical comedy of the same name by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, about a nerdy florist shop worker who raises a vicious plant that feeds on human blood...

to much acclaim from fans of the film, and the voice of Mother Brain in the animated TV series Captain N: The Game Master
Captain N: The Game Master
Captain N: The Game Master was an American animated television series that aired on television from 1989 to 1991 as part of the Saturday morning cartoon lineup on NBC. The show incorporated elements from many of the most popular Nintendo games of the time...

(1989). Stubbs also guest starred in a number of TV shows as himself. Berry Gordy
Berry Gordy
Berry Gordy, Jr. is an American record producer, and the founder of the Motown record label, as well as its many subsidiaries.-Early years:...

 offered him the role of Louis McKay in the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues, opposite Diana Ross
Diana Ross
Diana Ernestine Earle Ross is an American singer, record producer, and actress. Ross was lead singer of the Motown group The Supremes during the 1960s. After leaving the group in 1970, Ross began a solo career that included successful ventures into film and Broadway...

 as Billie Holliday, but Stubbs turned it down, once again not wishing to overshadow the other members of the Four Tops.

The Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg
Stephen William Bragg , better known as Billy Bragg, is an English alternative rock musician and left-wing activist. His music blends elements of folk music, punk rock and protest songs, and his lyrics mostly deal with political or romantic themes...

 album Talking with the Taxman about Poetry
Talking with the Taxman about Poetry
Talking with the Taxman about Poetry is the third release by Billy Bragg, released in 1986. With production by John Porter and Kenny Jones, Talking with the Taxman about Poetry featured more musicians than Bragg's previous works, which were generally little more than Bragg himself and a guitar....

includes a song titled, "Levi Stubbs' Tears".

Personal life


Levi Stubbs and his wife Clineice were married from 1960 until his death. He had five children. He was diagnosed with cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

, in 1995, and later he was no longer able to tour with the group after a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

. Stubbs died in his sleep on October 17, 2008, at his home in Detroit. Like the majority of Detroit celebrities, Stubbs is interred at Detroit's historic Woodlawn Cemetery
Woodlawn Cemetery (Detroit, Michigan)
Woodlawn Cemetery is a cemetery located at 19975 Woodward Avenue, across from the Michigan State Fairgrounds, between 7 Mile Road and 8 Mile Road, in Detroit, Michigan. It is one of the area's most well-known cemeteries.-History:...

 across from the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

His brother, Joe Stubbs, was a member of 100 Proof Aged In Soul, The Falcons
The Falcons
The Falcons were an American rhythm and blues vocal group, some of whose members went on to be influential in soul music.The Falcons formed in 1955 in Detroit, Michigan on the Mercury Records imprint. After personnel changes in 1956, The Falcons had hits for the Lupine Records label with the...

, The Contours
The Contours
The Contours were one of the early African-American soul singing groups signed to Motown Records.The group is best known for its Billboard Top 10 hit, "Do You Love Me," a million-selling song that peaked twice in the Top 20....

 and The Originals
The Originals
The Originals were a successful Motown R&B and soul group during the late 1960s and the 1970s, most notable for the hits "Baby I'm For Real", "The Bells" and the disco classic, "Down to Love Town"...

 and one of his cousins was Jackie Wilson
Jackie Wilson
Jack Leroy "Jackie" Wilson, Jr. was an American singer and performer. Known as "Mr. Excitement", Wilson was important in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. He was known as a master showman, and as one of the most dynamic singers and performers in R&B and rock history...

.

External links

  • Levi Stubbs interview by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul' October 1992
  • Obituary in Los Angeles Times
    Los Angeles Times
    The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

  • Obituary in The New York Times
    The New York Times
    The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

  • Obituary on NPR Music
    NPR Music
    NPR Music launched in November 2007 to present public radio music programming and original editorial content for music discovery. The Web site is a project of National Public Radio, a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to 797...