#711: Something About You by The Four Tops

Peak Month: November 1965
6 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #3
Wax To Watch ~ November 6, 1965
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #19
YouTube.com: “Something About You
“Something About You” lyrics

The Four Tops were Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton. Stubbs was born in 1936 as Levi Stubbles and was a cousin of Jackie Wilson. The first three were from Pershing High School in Detroit. Payton was from Northern High School. They met at a birthday party in 1953 for a mutual friend and while in high school formed a group called The Four Aims. Their repertoire was jazz and pop standards. To avoid confusion with the pop group, The Ames Brothers, they switched their name to The Four Tops. They signed a record contract with Chess Records in 1956. They left Detroit at that time for the Big Apple. Abdul “Duke” Fakir, recalls they foursome bounced around the nightclub circuit. They group shared a studio apartment. They rotated three daytime suits. It was agreed that whoever had the more important engagement got first pick. However, when they signed later with Motown in 1963 their fortunes changed. Berry Gordy Jr. saw The Four Tops perform “In The Still of The Night” on the Jack Paar Show that year.

Their first release, “Baby I Need Your Loving,” peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. It only climbed to #42 on the CFUN chart in Vancouver. Nonetheless, their debut single became a game changer and The Four Tops found a wider audience.

“Something About You” was the third single release from The Four Tops second album simply titled Four Tops Second Album. The other releases from the album were “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” and “It’s the Same Old Song.” “I Can’ Help Myself” had climbed in #1 in Vancouver and most radio markets across North America. And “It’s The Same Old Song” had made it to the Top Five.

Something About You by The Four Tops

“Something About You” featured a guitar riff that has been compared by author Rikky Rooksby to the Rolling Stones (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. In his book Riffs: How to Create and Play Great Guitar Riffs, Rooksby argues that the Four Tops manage in “Something About You” a cleaner sound. The guitar player on the record is Robert White, a member of the Funk Brothers. White played lead guitar on a number of other Motown hits including My Girl (The Temptations), Can I Get A Witness (Marvin Gaye), You Keep Me Hanging On (The Supremes) and My Cherie Amour (Stevie Wonder). In 2002 a documentary on the contribution the Funk Brothers made to Motown recordings was released titled Standing in the Shadows.

In his 1999 book The Heart of Rock and Soul, Rolling Stone Magazine music critic, David Marsh, says the secret to the success of “Something About You” is the sense of urgency and rhythm. Marsh contends the song is simply contagious. Marsh rates “Something About You” as among the top 1001 songs of the rock era. The song concerns the satisfaction and fidelity felt for someone who sets the singers soul on fire. In select radio markets record buyers agreed. The song peaked at #1 in New Haven (CT), #3 Wilmington (DL) and Vancouver (BC), #4 Newport News (VA) and Lansing (MI), #5 Pensacola (FL) and Dayton (OH), #7 Denver, #8 in Hartford, Los Angeles, Orlando (FL) and San Antonio. It stalled at #9 in Detroit.

The Four Tops continued scoring with songs of devotion and unfailing love like “Reach Out (I’ll Be There),” “Bernadette and “If I Were a Carpenter.” The Four Tops charted eighteen singles into the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. In Vancouver, The Four Tops charted 15 singles into the Top 20 and ten of these into the Top Ten. Looking back, the one remaining original member of the Four Tops, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, has good things to say about the height of their fame as chart topping recording artists. “Holland-Dozier-Holland kept coming up with hit after hit. There was no rivalry with the other groups on the label like The Temptations or The Supremes because we had our own style. We’d have dinner at each other’s houses, play golf with Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye or play cards… It was like a big family. We started travelling to different countries – it was amazing. When you consider where we came from, from the Detroit ghettos, it was a dream come true.”

Renaldo “Obie” Benson wrote the protest song, “What’s Goin’ On?” As an inducement to record the tune, Obie gave Marvin Gaye songwriting credits, while retaining a share of the royalties. The song became one of the biggest hits of 1971. In 1972, Motown moved their headquarters to Los Angeles. The Four Tops remained in Detroit and signed with Dunhill Records. They had one more sizable hit in the 1970’s titled “Ain’t No Woman Like The One I Got.” Switching to Casablanca Records, the Four Tops had an international Top Ten hit and a #1 R&B hit in 1981.

In 1986, Levi Stubbs embarked on a side project where he was the voice of the man-eating plant, Audrey II, in the 1986 musical film Little Shop of Horrors. In 1988, The Four Tops had a Top Ten hit in the UK and the Netherlands called “Loco in Acapulco.” The song was produced by Phil Collins and Lamont Dozier.

The original Four Tops stayed together for over 40 years. Lawrence Payton died in 1997. Levi Stubbs left the group in 2000. They had an appearance in 2004 for their 50th anniversary as a recording act with Motown. Then Renaldo “Obie” Benson died in 2005. Now, their legacy continues as the son of Lawrence Payton, Lawrence Payton Jr., along with Ronnie McNeir and Harold Bonhart perform in concert with Abdul “Duke” Fakir. From July 2018 into 2019, the Four Tops currently have fifteen concerts scheduled. Most of these are as part of a double billing with The Temptations.

June 29, 2018
Ray McGinnis

References:
Paul Lester, Where Are They Now…? Abdul “Duke” Fakir from The Four Tops, Express, London, UK, September 24, 2016.
Micheline Maynard, Levi Stubbs, 72, Powerful Voice for Four Tops, Dies, NY Times, October 17, 2008.
Dave Laing, Obituary: Renaldo “Obie” Benson: Four Tops Singer Who Wrote a Classic Soul Protest Anthem, The Guardian, London, UK, July 5, 2005
Marsh, David. The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. DeCapo Press, Boston, MA, 1999.
Rooksby, Rikky. Riffs: How to Create and Play Great Guitar Riffs. Backbeat Books, Milwaukee, WI, 2010.

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