DETROIT (Billboard) - Arguably the most powerful voice in Motown’s storied history has been silenced. Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs Jr. died Friday at his home in Detroit after a long series of health problems, including cancer and a stroke, that forced him to stop performing in 2000. He was 72.
Funeral arrangements were pending for Stubbs, who is survived by Clineice, his wife of 48 years, and five children.
“He had one of the most prolific and identifiably voices in American history,” the Motown Alumni Association’s Billy J. Wilson told Billboard.com. “It’s a deep loss, to the entire Motown family and to the world.”
Stubbs’ death leaves Abdul “Duke” Fakir as the Tops’ only living member from the original quartet, which formed in 1954 as the Four Aims and signed with Motown nine years later. Laurence Payton passed away in 1997, and Renaldo “Obie” Benson died in 2005.
Fakir continues to lead a version of the Tops that includes Payton’s son Roquel, former Temptations member Theo Peoples and Motown veteran Ronnie McNeir.
Stubbs — born Levi Stubbles in Detroit — gave voice to enduring hits such as “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Brenadette.” The Tops have sold more than 50 million records and racked up 45 chart hits for the Motown, ABC Dunhill, Arista and Casablanca labels, and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Stubbs also provided the voice of Audrey II, the man-eating plant in the film version of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors” in 1986, and of Mother Brain in the 1989 animated TV series “Captain N: The Game Master.”
Stubbs’ last public appearance with the group was at the group’s 50th anniversary concert July 28, 2004, at Detroit’s Music Hall Center.