When the whisper of the news that Levi Stubbs, the formidable lead baritone of the legendary Four Tops, had died at his home in Detroit early Friday, no one really wanted to confirm it. It has never been a secret that Levi Stubbs suffered a debilitating stroke in 2000 that left him virtually impaired and ill. His retirement from the legendary group he helped found later in the year caused a rumble. The word was that Stubbs would be replaced. This rumour, which swept through the streets of Detroit like crack rock, let the remaining Tops know that replacing Levi Stubbs would not be an option. Funny. They listened the concerns of their fans and Detroiters by issuing a statement acknowledging that the silky-gruff pleading voice of Levi Stubbs COULD not be replaced.
From time to time, the Tops were graced by Stubbs presence at an event or two. Here and there. But we knew that Levi Stubbs was in poor health and we accepted his legacy to Motown, to Detroit and to the world. It was okay to say goodbye to a man that sung his natural heart out on stage. He had entertained us for over thirty years. Now, it was our turn to show him how much we loved him. The Tops legacy must continue despite our selfishness. The Tops did just that. They continued making music and thrilling audiences all over the the planet.
It deeply saddened me to hear those whispers of the death Levi Stubbs. He was a legend in Detroit and we loved him. When Motown left Detroit in the late sixties, early seventies, anda lot of key acts followed Berry Gordy to California, The Tops stayed in Detroit. My dad lived right around the corner from Renaldo “Obie” Benson. I ended of moving directly across the street from Abdul “Duke” Fakir. These men, The Tops, had extraordinary fame and money (maybe I should pass on that because we all know that Motown gave its’ artist the rawist of raw deals) but they chose to stay in the city that they grew up in. The Tops lived in Detroit. Raised their children in Detroit. Partied in Detroit. Yes, there are some stories about how The Tops partied, too!
No one bothered them. We loved them. But Detroiters gave them their peace and respect. I remember when Duke Fakir opened a restaurant in Downtown Detroit on the Lansdown. A floating boat/club/restaurant. My best friend’s brother worked on it when Duke took over. We were mad excited! Yeah, we were teenagers, but the legend of The Tops transcends age. One particular night, after begging and pleading, my best friend’s brother slipped us onto the boat. Being seventeen and ga-ga over DeBarge, Prince and New Edition, didn’t stop us from hoping that we could touch Motown magic!
My girlfriend and I ate and danced, had a great time! As we waited for my girlfriend’s brother to finish his shift (he had a car and we had bussed it), The Tops strolled in with their wives. Instead of walking right past us, like we were just a couple of kids, they stopped and engaged us in conversation. LOL! The conversation centered around how hold were we and why weren’t we at home in bed! But that was still cool! We had a whole conversation with the legendary Tops! Our parents would be excited if we could have told them!
I met The Tops again at the annual Motown Museum fundraiser. I was an adult and a journalist covering the event. Levi Stubbs and The Tops, as usual, sprinkled on me that Motown nostalgia. They gave me a great interview and even invited me to join them at their table! The class of these guys! What a evening! I will never forget it!
Now, only one original Top remain. Duke. Obie and Lawrence passed in 1997 and 2005 respectively. I am at a loss for words. I am hurting and I know that Detroiters are greatly mourning the passing of Levi Stubbs. We loved all of The Tops. Their music spoke to a city in crisis that refused to let it get them down. I vaguely remember when “Still Waters” was released. I was seven. My dad loved that song. He played it often along with The Tempts.
Yeah. The Tops and The Tempts. That’s what we Detroiters called our most beloved Motown groups. Levi Stubbs, a legend. A class act. Can you hear “Stiil Waters” in your ear? I can.
Levi Stubbs, dead at 72. We’re going to miss him. But his music will live forever!
Solange Knowles is on a serious media kick. Last week, you could find Solange on “The View.” This week, Tyra’s show. Solange Knowles is making the rounds hard. No doubts about that. But doesn’t it seem as if she is running a marathon? You know what I mean. Running fast and furious away from Beyonce’s mammoth shadow. That particular sprint is a long and taxing one. I hope that Solange has trained hard for this event because it will take nearly everything she’s got to succeed. But can she?
Well, considering that Solange’s latest release, “Sol-Angel and The Hadley Street Dreams,” (whatever that means!) is selling at a semi-moderate pace and the critics haven’t completely panned the endeavor shows in itself that there is a possibility that Solange could stand alone, minus Beyonce’s influence. The collection of music that Solange has presented showcases an amazing awareness of songwriting and musical production that is incomparable to what is on the charts at this time.
The obvious throw-back to sixties and seventies soul/R&B is exactly what propels Solange above and beyond what’s happening amongst her peers. If you take a close look at the leading R&B/Hip Hop female performers, you will find that even though the music is slightly different, the lyrics and the melody are one in the same. There is no diversity, no creativity or individuality that sets one female vocalist apart from the next. I use ‘vocalist’ loosely.
However, Solange’s obvious determination to find her own voice and showcase is quite evident on “I Decided” and “Sandcastle Disco.” These examples display Solange’s acknowledgement and rapt aptitude about what is going on around her in the music industry. Solange has done a masterful job in distinguishing herself from other R&B vocalists. This includes her sister Beyonce.
But let’s not get it twisted. Little sista better kick it up a notch between now and November because word on the street is Beyonce’ is itching to release her new music by Thanksgiving. That’s right! So, Solange, get out there and make it happen, NOW! Before the Beyonce’ BLITZ!
That also goes for Destiny Child’s group member Michelle Williams. Get that album out NOW before its’ too late! Remember what happened to poor Kelly. If you don’t know, better ask somebody!
Legendary singer-songwriter, producer, arranger, composer and actor Isaac Hayes was found dead at home by his wife early Sunday, Memphis police announced. Found near a still-running tread mill, Hayes was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Isaac Hayes was 65.
The man many knew as “Black Moses,” Hayes made a name for himself as a songwriter at Stax Records writing major hits for Sam and Dave, The Emotions, Mable John and Carla Thomas. But in 1969, things changed dramatically for Isaac Hayes. With the release of his debut album, “Hot Buttered Soul,” Isaac Hayes was on his way to becoming a icon. With deep, rich and lush orchestrations that rose to a orgasmic crescendo, Hayes was able to transform soul music into a totally new listening experience.
Bald, black and beautiful, with a huge long gold-chain like rope cascading from his body, Isaac Hayes embodied a feeling in time that enraptured Afro-America. His stance was one of a strong, talented and inspirational African America man, even though there were some in Caucasian American who were threatened by this beautiful specimen of a man.
Isaac Hayes went on to score the cult classic, “Shaft,” which made him and the tough but debonair ladies man Richard Roundtree famous. Hayes was recognized for his stellar composition and scoring of “Shaft” with an Academy Award. He was the first African American to walk away with the statute in the category of “Best Film Score.”
Isaac Hayes made nine consecutive albums between 1969 and 1979. Some of the favorites are: “Hot Buttered Soul,” Black Moses,” “Joy,” “Live at the Sahara Tahoe,’ and “Chocolate Chip.” Isaac Hayes was the recipient of three Grammy Awards and numerous other accolades.
To the newer generation, Isaac Hayes portrayed the witty and wise ‘Chef’ on Comedy Central’s “South Park.” His tenure there was interrupted by his rumoured displeasure with “South Park” writers over a proposed episode that poked fun at Christian Scientists, a faith that Hayes practiced.
Issac Hayes, a symbol of musical genius, dead at 65.
“That was my man,” long-time fan Francine Stigler reminisced late Sunday afternoon. “I used to play his music from sun up to sun down!”
You sure did, Mom.
Yeah. The uproar has begun. Wednesday on “The View”, moderator Whoopie Goldberg passionately commented on the way Michelle Obama carries herself. Whoopie complimented Michelle Obama, wife of presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, by suggesting that Michelle Obama persona is a breath of fresh air, for a sista of the chocolate hue. Whoopie then mentioned that most sistas of the chocolate hue are portrayed on television as ghetto…wearing grills on their teeth, not able to string along a sentence, without class, basically.
Now, I admit that Michelle Obama always steps out of the house on point and fabulous. Whenever she is on television, she is stunning and beautiful. And I do admit, to a certain extent, that it IS refreshing to see a chocolate sista representing sistas like me. I mean, I do occassionally get tired of seeing Beyonce’, Mariah, Rhianna, Vanessa and other latte’ sistas getting the lime light. I say occasionally. I’m not a hater. My flesh and blood sister is a latte’ sista and I love her dearly.
But the uproar over Whoopi’s comments makes zero sense. The media, the cable and radio sector, have taken her comments and blown them out of proportion. Whoopie, herself a chocolate brownie sista, was only making the point that nowadays, sistas of the chocolate hue are being unfairly pigeoned-holed by the broadcast media in a negative light. In fact, within our own culture, African Americans have a nasty habit of showing preferential treatment to those of us with a light complexion.
I wasn’t insulted or taken aback by what Whoopie said about Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama not only makes me, a chocolate brownie sista proud, but she makes ALL OF US SISTAS PROUD.
And soon…she will make all women in this country PROUD.