Top 20 Four Tops Hits
In the early 1950s, four Detroit high school students performed at a local birthday party. After that, these four students stayed together as one of the biggest R&B groups for more than four decades.
Levi Stubbs (brother of Joe Stubbs from The Falcon and cousin of Jackie Wilson), Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton called themselves The Four Goals.
The Four Aims signed with Chess Records in 1956 and changed their name to The Four Tops, so that they would not be confused with the family pop group, The Ames Brothers.
Recording with four different record labels and without successes, The Four Tops caught the attention of Motown Records executive Berry Gordy Jr. In 1963, they signed with Motown and initially did back-up work for other Motown artists. They can be heard on “Run, Run, Run” by The Supremes.
In 1964, the Holland-Dozier-Holland team of composers came up with a melody perfectly suited to the quartet. “Baby I Need Your Loving” became the first of many Billboard top 20 hits.
On the charts, The Four Tops had twenty-five Top 40 hits, two reaching number one. Here’s a look at The Four Tops’ top twenty hits, according to Billboard’s Top 40 charts:
1. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) – 1965 – Her biggest single went to number one for two weeks and has been covered by The Supremes, Donnie Elbert (who took it to # 22) and Dolly Parton . It was also used in Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Duncan Hines brownie mix commercials.
2. Reach Out, I’ll Be There – 1966 – His only other number one song was also song number 3 of the year 1966.
3. Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got) – 1973 – In 1972, The Four Tops left Motown, when the label moved to Los Angeles, and signed with the ABC / Dunhill label. This song, originally recorded by Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds, would be Four Tops’ biggest single after leaving Motown. It was included on their album “Keeper of the Castle”.
4. Bernadette – 1967 – From the album “Reach Out” this song was included in the soundtrack of “Zodiac”. In the CBS-TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” the character Howard Wolowitz uses the song as a ringtone for his girlfriend.
5. It’s The Same Old Song – 1965 – The continuation of “I Can’t Help Myself” features the same chords. It has been covered by Jonathan King, KC and the Sunshine Band and The Tops appeared in a Velveeta commercial singing “It’s The Same Old Side”.
6. Standing In The Shadows Of Love – 1967 – Also from the album “Reach Out”. In 1990, Aerosmith used a riff on their single “The Other Side” that sounded similar to this song. Aerosmith’s lawyers, in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit, credited Holland-Dozier-Holland for Aerosmith’s single.
7. Keeper of the Castle – 1972 – His first single after leaving Motown went to # 10 on the weekly charts. It’s from the album of the same name.
8. When She Was My Girl – 1981 – It had been eight years since the group had a hit in the top 40 and after signing with Casablanca Records they did. It would also be his last top 40 hit in seven more years.
9. Baby I Need Your Loving – 1964 – His first hit peaked at # 11 on the weekly charts. The cover versions have been many, including those of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Gene Pitney and Johnny Rivers, who took their cover to number 3 on the weekly charts.
10. Still Water (Love) – 1970 – Written by Smokey Robinson and Frank Wilson, this silky tune is a departure from the hard rock songs the Tops had been making. From the album “Still Waters Run Deep”, this single featured Marv Tarplin of the Miracles on guitar.
11. River Deep – Mountain High – 1971 – Written by Phil Spector for Ike & Tina Turner in 1966, then covered by Eric Burdon and the Animals in 1968. The most successful version was The Four Tops, when they teamed up with The Supremes, without Diana Ross, and took the Top 20.
12. 7 Rooms Of Gloom – 1967 – Also covered by Blondie and Pat Benetar, the Four Tops didn’t like this song and never played it in concert. Side B, “I’ll Turn to Stone” was also released, but only reached # 76 on the charts.
13. Walk Away Renee – 1968 – Originally recorded by The Left Banke in 1966 and peaking at # 5, The Four Tops has the most successful version of this song. Renee had a crush on Left Banke keyboardist Michael Brown, who wrote the song about bassist Tom Finn’s girlfriend.
14. Are you man enough? – 1973 – This song appeared on the album’s soundtrack and in the movie “Shaft In Africa” starring Richard Roundtree.
15. Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over) – 1966 – Poor Levi Stubbs can’t believe his wife is leaving him for another man. But it does, in this top 20 that has also been covered by Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, and Shaun Cassidy.
16. Something About You – 1965 – His continuation of “It’s The Same Old Song”, this song barely made the top 20. Not to be confused with the Level 42 song of the same name.
17. You Keep Running Away – 1967 – From their “Greatest Hits” album, this song, like most of their singles, had backing vocals from The Adantes, who did backing work for many Motown artists.
18. If I Were A Carpenter – 1968 – Written by Tim Hardin and originally recorded by Bobby Darin in 1966, The Four Tops covered it in 1968 and reached the top 20 with it.
19. It’s All In The Game – 1970 – Another version of a great standard, originally recorded by Tommy Edwards in 1958, the soulful sound of Four Tops stands out in this top 30 for them.
20. Ask The Lonely – 1965 – His third single for Motown was written by veteran staff member Mickey Stevenson and Ivy Joe Hunter.
The last Four Tops Top 40 hit was “Indestructible” in 1988.
The quartet also did some film work singing a song in the 1982 film, “Grease 2”. Levi Stubbs provided the voice of the ravenous greenery, Audrey II, in the 1986 musical film, “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Arriving late from a recording session in December 1988, the group missed the flight home from their European tour. It turned out to be Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, when a terrorist bomb was detonated on board.
In 1997, after 44 years without changing staff, Lawrence Payton died of lung cancer. “Obie” Benson also died of lung cancer eight years later. Lead singer Levi Stubbs died at his home in Detroit in 2008. “Duke” Fakir is the only surviving original member, still performing with three other members as The Four Tops.
The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
In 2009, they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
His song, “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.