Four Tops leader Abdul "Duke" Fakir called the late Levi Stubbs "one of the best singers in the world, period, of all time" and "a great man" today (Oct. 20), in the first comments from the group's ca

Four Tops leader Abdul "Duke" Fakir called the late Levi Stubbs "one of the best singers in the world, period, of all time" and "a great man" today (Oct. 20), in the first comments from the group's camp since Stubbs passed away Friday in his sleep at home in Detroit.

Fakir -- who started the Four Tops with Stubbs after the two met as high school students at a party on Detroit's north side in 1954 -- told Billboard.com that the loss is "a big hurt" and was compounded by the Tops being out of town, performing in Jackpot, Nev., during the weekend.

"It was a fun engagement, but I didn't really want to be there," acknowledged Fakir, the sole surviving original member of the legendary Motown group. "I was hurting the whole time. I really wanted to just come back home, but we do not disappoint the fans. That was one of the hard weekends for me, though."

Back in Detroit, Fakir said that the news of the singer's death "hit me hard" even though Stubbs was in poor health due to cancer and strokes and had been off the road since 2000. "It still is always a shock even though it's somewhat expected," Fakir said. "I saw him about a week ago and he looked healthier. His face was fatter and he was smiling and he was in good spirits. I really thought he'd pull through longer than he did."

Funeral services for Stubbs, who was 72, will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple. Public viewings will take place Friday and Saturday at the city's Swanson Funeral Home.

Fakir said that Stubbs, who was the godfather to Fakir's oldest child, will always be remembered for the voice that powered the Four Tops' hits. "He had such power," he said. "He had a baritone voice and a tenor range. He could do anything with his voice. He could take you anywhere with it. He could take you to a love scene. He could take you dancing. He could take a great old standard and make you feel like you're right there in that song. Just an amazing voice, an amazing interpreter, an amazing man."

Even more importantly, Fakir noted, Stubbs "was dedicated to us. He had many chances and many offers to be lured away into his own solo world, but he never wanted that. He said, 'Man, all I really want to do is sing and take care of my family, and that's what I'm doing, so all is well. Everything else that doesn't include you guys, it doesn't mean a thing to me.' That kind of character and commitment is really hard to find these days."

Fakir said that he and the current Tops -- Roquel Payton (son of original Top Laurence Payton, who died in 1997), former Temptations member Theo Peoples and Motown veteran Ronnie McNeir -- intend to continue performing to honor the Tops' legacy.

"As long as people accept us delivering those songs as close to the original Four Tops as we can, we'll do it," he said. "There'll never be another Levi. We don't expect to replace a voice like that, or a personality like that. But we can keep singing his songs, 'cause the world should always hear them."