Motown’s Four Tops — Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Lawrence Payton and Renaldo “Obie” Benson — will be honored in February with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
“How great is that?” said Duke Fakir, the sole survivor of the original Four Tops. “I just wish the other guys were here to hear this and to receive it — it’ll go to their families, of course.”
Fakir was speaking from Atlanta, where he is recuperating from arthroscopic surgery on his knee. The veteran Top found out about the honor a few weeks ago when he received a call from Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, who was as excited as Fakir was.
“He said he wanted to personally congratulate us for being the recipients of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, because he always loved the Four Tops and he likes to get a personal reaction when it’s a group he admires,” Fakir said. “I almost cried! I said, ‘Well, you’re going to get a reaction from me!’ ”
The family of the late Levi Stubbs (he died in mid-October), Benson’s family and Payton’s family were informed, as well. Payton’s son, Lawrence Jr., tours with the current Tops, led by Fakir.
It’s hard to believe, but this will be the first Grammy recognition for the Four Tops, despite their stellar recording career in the ’60s and ’70s for Motown Records (in the ’50s they recorded singles for Chess and other labels).
Led by Stubbs’ gruff, soulful baritone, their hits include “Baby, I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” “Bernadette” and “Ask the Lonely.” Stubbs and Fakir were friends and classmates at Pershing High when they teamed up with Benson and Payton. The Tops’ sound was soulful, yet polished, their stage act a throwback to the smooth moves of supper club acts like Billy Eckstine.
“We got all the awards an artist can get, but this is the icing on the cake,” Fakir says. “It sizes up our whole career; it’s the most prestigious of all the honors to be awarded this by your peers. I always admired people like Frank Sinatra who had received it. With the Grammys, I really thought that one had gotten away from us. It’s like an NBA player. You had good stats, but you still don’t get the ring.”
Then he’ll travel to Washington, D.C., for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, although a gig hasn’t been firmed up yet. “I’ll go anyway,” Fakir says.
Next year promises to be exciting. “This kicks off celebrating the beginning of the 50th anniversary year for Motown, too,” Fakir said. [source]