Archive for Oktober, 2008
Levi Stubbs, ein Cousin von Jackie Wilson, war 1954 GrÃ¼ndungsmitglied der Rhythm -and-Blues-Formation The Four Aims. SpÃ¤ter der LeadsÃ¤nger der Four Tops mit einer unvergleichlichen Stimme.
Besser kann man es nicht beschreiben:
SOMETHING ABOUT YOU
Remembering Levi Stubbs
By Dave Marsh
When I was 15, I met the Four Tops on a downtown Detroit street, where they were doing a photo shoot with the Supremes. The groupâ€”especially Duke Fakirâ€”were extraordinarily kind to a trio of white kids totally out of their element. I love the Four Tops for that, but I would have loved them anyway. They are the voice of adolescent angst and adult heartbreak, the pure, the absolute joy that humans can take in one another. Call them love songs â€“Iâ€™d say it was more like lifelinesâ€”but call them silly and youâ€™ve branded yourself as a fool.Â
Phil Spector once said that â€œBernadetteâ€ was a black man singing Bob Dylan. The name of that black man was Levi Stubbs. And for those of you who are Bruce Springsteen fans, go find the Tops greatest album, The Four Tops Second Album, and listen to â€œLove Feels Like Fireâ€ and â€œHelpless,â€ two of my alltime Motown tracks (and they werenâ€™t even singles). Youâ€™ll feel the same thing. Those crazed sax breaks are as close to free jazz as Motown ever let itself come, and they got away with it there solely because the Tops were such a perfect machine with the most powerful voice of its time at the fore. I could never figure out whether Levi was the toughest or the tenderest singer at Motown, so I finally accepted that he was both.
Yeah, a lot of the Tops is formula Holland Dozier Holland. Sometimes even I think itâ€™s the Supremes when the intro to â€œItâ€™s the Same Old Songâ€ or â€œSomething About Youâ€ comes on. So what? To begin with, HDH created the greatest formula in the history of rock and soul. Now: Go listen again to â€œReach Outâ€ and see if you can think of a Supremes record that could grab you in the gut that way. Itâ€™s the â€œLike a Rolling Stoneâ€ of soulâ€”with a flute and hand percussion leading the way! The group always got Eddie Hollandâ€™s greatest lyrics (and he the most under-rated lyricist of the â€˜60s) and thatâ€™s one.
They got those songs because Levi could sing the most impossible stuff. Any other soul singer I know would have insisted on editing. The great, long, image rich lines in â€œBermandetteâ€ and â€œAsk the Lonelyâ€ were too long, that they needed more space to really sing. Not Levi. He charged into those words and wrestled everything out of them, and somehow, he sounded graceful as he did. â€œLoving you has made my life sweeter than everâ€ is so multisyllabic that they had to shorten it for the title: â€œLoving You Is Sweeter Than Everâ€ fit the label better, I guess.
The Tops got away with that as a group because they knew how to work with such vocal intricacy. By the time they had their first Motown hit theyâ€™d already been together for ten years. Duke told me recently that their earlier sojourn at Columbia Records in the late â€˜50s came after a brief appearance at the Apollo. The talent scout who signed them was John Hammondâ€”the same guy who found Bob, Bruce, and Aretha. Thatâ€™s the company the Four Tops, and Levi Stubbs, in particular belong in. Who else could turn â€œWalk Away Reneeâ€ into soul music? Who else could get away with â€œ7 Rooms of Gloomâ€ as a love song without a hint of irony, let alone comedy?
I will testify. Levi and the Tops were among the graces of my own soul. When I get nervous before an interview, I always remember how kind those guys were to that 15 year old kid, and I feel beyond harm. When I listen to â€œThe Same Old Song,â€ I remember once again the sweetness of sour. â€œBernadetteâ€ calls to my mind the futility of believing youâ€™re in control, and how easy it is to confuse passion with obsession. â€œReach Outâ€ is simply as colossal an extravaganza as rock and soul music have ever produced, as monumental in its way as â€œLike a Rolling Stone.â€ The focal point of all that musical gingerbread and the mighty Funk Brothers is not the groupâ€”itâ€™s one man, Levi Stubbs, pushed not to his limit but way past it. But thereâ€™s not a hintâ€”not a secondâ€”where Levi Stubbs sounds like anything but a guy from down the street, across the way or in your mirror. Imagine a Pavarotti on the corner. There he is. All of it helped, somehow, make my own life possible.
This is no case of â€œShake Me, Wake Me (When Itâ€™s Over).â€ Levi Stubbs was 72 years old. He hadnâ€™t been in good health for several years. This isnâ€™t Marvin Gaye or David Ruffin or Tammi Terrell. This is a man who made his full contribution to our culture, our lives. That doesnâ€™t make it all that much easier to hear the word.Â
At the Topsâ€™ golden anniversary show in Detroit several years ago, he sang from a wheelchair. â€œThere wasnâ€™t a dry eye in the house,â€ his friend and attorney, Judy Tint, told me this afternoon.
Ainâ€™t any in this house today, either.
Permission to reprint this article (with full credit) given to all.
Freitag Â 10.10.08 Soulcruise in der Trinkhalle, mit Olove und Capt. Blake am Dj Pult.
Samstag 11.10.08 Soap Soul im Seifenhorst, mit Gogo und Capt. Blake am Dj Kamin.
Flyer kommt noch, bestimmt!