The Four Tops

The Four Tops

Synopsis of Pop Music

"Baby, I need your loving,
Got to have all your loving..."

Soul music became a big deal on the pop charts in the mid-1960’s when Motown Records brought their own uniquely pop-flavored style of soul into the world of pop music. One of their finest and most successful groups was the Four Tops. This seasoned quartet of soul singers scored several hits throughout the 1970’s with a unique style of pop-soul music that blended r&b grit with orchestral sweetness. In the process, they became legends in both the pop and soul music worlds.

The Four Tops began when the group’s members met and sang together at a party. They soon began performing around Detroit and recording singles of various indie labels. By the time they arrived at Motown Records in 1963, they were show-business veterans who could sing everything from jazz to standards to soul, and all with style. The group quickly set to work with the top writing/producing team of Holland, Dozier, and Holland and scored a hit with their first outing, an uptempo tune called “Baby I Need Your Loving.” It almost immediately became a smash success on both the pop and r&b charts.

“Baby I Need Your Loving” set the tone for the Four Tops sound by blending Levi Stubbs’ impassioned, gospel-ish lead vocal with the group’s smooth harmonies over a symphonically lush instrumental track. The group continued to score hits in 1965, starting with forlorn but pretty ballad “Ask the Lonely.” They moved into superstar status with their next two records, the #1 smash “I Can’t Help Myself” and “It’s the Same Old Song.” Both songs mixed driving r&b grooves with pretty orchestral touches and were anchored by the group’s rock-solid vocal blend. The group also undertook a successful club tour through Europe.

The Four Tops continued to stay on top in 1966, starting with rousing uptempo tunes like “Something About You” and “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over).” However, the triumph of that year was “Reach Out I’ll Be There.” This phenomenal song blended Eastern-sounding horns and exotic drum patterns into the group’s symphonic-soul stew to create another million-selling hit. It also included what many fans consider to be Levi Stubbs’ finest vocal performance, overflowing with soul and heartfelt emotion.

1967 began with a huge hit for the Four Tops in “Standing in the Shadows of Love.” This anguished tale of a lover preparing for a breakup captured the group in peak form and quickly became a Top-10 hit. It was followed by an even bigger hit with the Top-5 smash “Bernadette.” In this song, Stubbs unforgettably cataloged the many charms of his true love and set many hearts a-flutter in the process. They continued to chart in the Top-20 throughout the rest of the year with “Seven Rooms of Gloom” and “You Keep Running Away.”

Fans were worried that the group’s fortunes might change when Holland, Dozier, and Holland left Motown at the end of 1967. But the Four Tops didn’t miss a beat. They scored hits in 1968 with soulful covers of songs like “Walk Away Renee” and the folk classic “If I Were a Carpenter.” They scored another major hit in 1970 with the smooth and mellow “Still Water (Love).” In 1971, they had a hit duet with the Supremes on a remake of the classic “River Deep, Mountain High.” Meanwhile, Renaldo 'Obie' Benson branched out into songwriting by co-penning the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On.”

When Motown moved from Detroit to Hollywood in 1972, the Four Tops decided to stay put. They moved to ABC records and began their second decade of hits. They started off with a bang in 1973, scoring a Top-10 single with the funky “Keeper Of The Castle.” It was quickly followed by a sweet ballad, “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got,” which hit the Top-5 and became another million-selling hit for the group. The Four Tops also hit the Top-15 with the suspenseful uptempo track “Are You Man Enough?,” which was used as the theme song for Shaft In Africa. All in all, not bad for their first year on their own.

The Four Tops continued to have hits into 1976 with songs like “One Chain Don’t Make No Prison” and “Catfish.” As the 1980’s dawned, they topped the r&b charts and scored a Top-15 pop hit with the wistful, romantic “When She Was My Girl.” The Four Tops returned to Motown in 1983 and also toured with fellow Motown stars the Temptations. In 1987, Levi Stubbs voiced the creature ‘Audrey II’ for the hit Little Shop of Horrors, and in 1990, the Four Tops were given a richly-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

In 1993, the Four Tops celebrated their 40th anniversary. Amazingly, their lineup had not changed once during any of these forty years. Payton passed away in 1997, but the remaining members continue to perform around the world, calling themselves simply ‘The Tops.’ Their sound is timeless, so there is no doubt that they will continue to have success as long as they want it. Just the same, they have already earned the status of ‘legends’ several times over with their symphonic but gutsy brand of soul music.

Artist Release History

1964 - The Four Tops
1965 - The Four Tops Second Album
1966 - On Top
1966 - The Four Tops Live Motown
1967 - On Broadway
1967 - Reach Out
1968 - Yesterday's Dreams
1969 - The Four Tops Now!
1969 - Soul Spin
1970 - Still Waters Run Deep
1970 - Changing Times
1970 - The Magnificent 7
1971 - The Return of the Magnificent Seven
1971 - Dynamite
1972 - Nature Planned It
1972 - Keeper of the Castle
1973 - Main Street People
1974 - Meeting of the Minds
1974 - Shaft in Africa
1974 - Live & In Concert
1975 - Night Lights Harmony
1976 - Catfish
1977 - The Show Must Go On
1978 - At the Top
1981 - Tonight!
1982 - The Fabulous Four Tops
1982 - One More Mountain
1983 - Back Where I Belong
1985 - Magic
1986 - Hot Nights
1988 - Indestructible
1992 - When She Was My Girl
1995 - It's the Same Old Song
1995 - Christmas Here with You

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Ultimate Collection (Motown)
Keepers Of The Castle: Their Best 1972-1978 (MCA)

Band Members

Levi Stubbs lead vocals
Renaldo 'Obie' Benson vocals
Abdul 'Duke' Fakir vocals
Lawrence Payton vocals

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