OLD-ISH CONTENT WARNING: You are viewing a post that's more than three years old. There's a good chance that a lot of the following is seriously out-of-date (or at least not reflective of my current thinking on this topic). Proceed with caution.
I just learned this morning that Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops and easily my all-time favorite Motown vocalist, passed away on Friday at the age of 72. Levi was just the absolute fucking best. It’s really easy to take the Four Tops for granted, given their ubiquity on oldies radio and the fact that, in many ways, they exemplified the sound of the Motown production machine more than somewhat more idiosyncratic acts like Marvin Gaye or Smokey Robinson. But goddamn, you listen to Levi on prime Tops tracks like “Bernadette,” “Shake Me Wake Me (When It’s Over),” or even late-period inconsequentialities like “Are You Man Enough” (from the soundtrack to Shaft In Africa), and you realize the man just sang with absolutely everything he had all the time. Nobody sounds more real, more heartbreaking, than Levi Stubbs. I miss him.