Friday, October 17, 2008

Rest In Peace: Levi Stubbs

Levi Stubbs died. You might not know his name, but if you love classic R&B as I do, you know his voice. He was the primary singer for the Four Tops. I first learned his name when the great remake of Little Shop of Horrors came out--he was the voice of the Mean Green Mother From Outer Space.

The second time I heard his name, it was from a great Billy Bragg album, and my favorite song on that great album ("Talking With the Taxman About Poetry"), was "Levi Stubb's Tears". It happens to be one of the most affecting songs about spousal abuse written by a man I've ever heard. Billy Bragg is also awesome.

But we are talking about great Motown singers, not great English songwriters. And Levi Stubbs was one of the best. Members of the Temptations and The Four Tops never became household names. The lead singer of the Temptations tried, and actually put out a pretty good solo record or two. It didn't take long for the Miracles to become Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (and for good reason). Levi Stubbs never tried to go solo, despite the fact that he was one of the classic voices of the Motown 60's song. He could have. He choose to be a Four Top for as long as he could (almost 45 years, according to the LA Times).

Fare thee well, Levi Stubbs. I hope Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt. It seems unlikely though--you can't sing like he does here without real emotion behind it. Listen to the man! It is classic Motown sound, but the blatant panicked desperation of this song--Smokey could have sung this song, but I don't think it would have sounded so...visceral.

1 comment:

Ms. Rhode said...

Dee Dee Warwick passed on the 18th.