1981 Four Tops – When She Was My Girl
In 1953, four singers from Detroit formed the Four Aims. The group included Levi Stubbs as their lead singer, and Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, and Lawrence Payton as background singers. Songwriter Roquel Davis, Lawrence’s cousin, helped the group sign with Chess Records in 1956. They changed their name to the Four Tops because of the prior success of the Ames Brothers.
The group recorded for several labels in the next seven years, but did not record any successful records. Berry Gordy, Jr. had worked with Roquel, and that helped him convince the Four Tops to sign with Motown Records in 1963. They initially sang on the company’s Jazz label, then did some background vocals for the Supremes, and finally got their own hit record when they recorded Baby I Need Your Loving in 1964.
The group recorded over a dozen top forty singles for Motown in the sixties. Their records did even better on the R&B chart, where they had eleven top ten singles.
The Motown company moved to LA in 1972, and several of the label’s older artists whose careers had faded remained in Detroit instead. The Four Tops moved to ABC Records and promptly had two more top ten hits on the Hot 100. They were unable to reach the top forty on the Hot 100 for the following seven years.
In 1981, the Four Tops signed with Casablanca Records. Their first single for the new label was When She Was My Girl. The single peaked at #11 on the Hot 100, gave the group their last #1 hit on the R&B chart.
The group returned to Motown Records in 1983, but their hit-making years were essentially behind them. They teamed up with Smokey Robinson on Indestructible in 1988 and the single reached #35 on the Hot 100, but it became their last appearance on that chart.
The group continued to make appearances on television shows and toured as an oldies group. The lineup remained intact until cancer caused Lawrence’s death in 1997. The four singers had kept their group intact for over 44 years!
Levi stepped out of the group in the early 2000s to fight with his own case of cancer and died in 2012.
Duke and Obie still lead a touring group of the Four Tops with replacement singers as needed to fill out the group.
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