Motown Royalty Turns Out For Stubbs Funeral
A full complement of the Motown family -- including company founder Berry Gordy, Jr., and stars such as Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and Dennis Edwards -- turned out today (Oct. 27) in Detroit to paA full complement of the Motown family -- including company founder Berry Gordy, Jr., and stars such as Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and Dennis Edwards -- turned out today (Oct. 27) in Detroit to pay tribute to the late Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs, Jr.
The 72-year-old Stubbs -- who died Oct. 17 at his home in Detroit following years of illness -- was celebrated with a funeral ceremony fit for a head of state at Greater Grace Temple. Gordy, who received a standing ovation from the couple thousand mourners at the church, said Stubbs, who was nicknamed "the Captain," "was greater than soul... He not only sang the song; he was the song."
Robinson recalled battling, and usually losing to, the Four Aims (as they were originally known) in talent contests during the '50s and said that the Tops were "the group of groups." Robinson's ex-wife and Miracles group mate Claudette Robinson delivered Stubbs' obituary.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson ordered the crowd to give Stubbs one last standing ovation and "scream like you're at the Apollo (Theater) for the first time, or (Detroit's famous) Twenty Grand!" He also noted that the singer "resisted the temptation to become Levi and the Three Tops" -- though in his references to Motown artists who had passed away he mistakenly mentioned Otis Williams, who remains the only original Temptations member still alive.
Abdul "Duke" Fakir, the sole surviving founding Four Top, gave emotional remarks in which he thanked anyone who'd done anything to support the group and concluded that "there will always be, through eternity, the four of us."
Minister Nazim Fakir, Fakir's oldest son and Stubbs' godson, delivered a eulogy stating that "the last 72 years we've experienced the gospel according to Levi Stubbs" and saluting all four of the Tops for providing "a shining example of what real manhood was all about." Current Four Tops lead singer (and former Temptation) Theo Peoples read a piece he had written entitled "Levi's Poem," while another former Temptation, Ali Ollie Woodson, and Jean Carne sang during the ceremony.
Stubbs' own voice was heard via a video of a televised performance of "I Believe in You and Me" from a Black Gold Awards celebration.
Reeves, who's now a Detroit city councilwoman, sang snippets of several Four Tops hits during her remembrance and called all of the Motown alumni in the church to stand together for a moment in front of Stubbs' coffin, which was flanked by floral arrangements and a portrait of the Four Tops.
Among those attending were songwriter/producers Eddie and Brian Holland, Kim Weston, members of the Spinners, Contours, Andantes, Velvelettes, Funk Brothers drummer Uriel Jones, Geno Washington, Sir Mack Rice, Motown etiquette coach Maxine Powell, longtime Four Tops attorney Judy Tint and Harry Weinger, who oversees Motown archival releases for the Universal Music Group. Aretha Franklin, a close friend of Stubbs, was in New York appearing on "The View" Monday but was among those who sent flowers for the funeral.
Proclamations were announced by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and the State of Michigan, while several from the City of Detroit included one naming June 6, his birthday, as Levi Stubbs Day.
Stubbs was buried at nearby Woodlawn Ceremony, while the Motowners gathered at the St. Regis hotel in downtown Detroit for a wake following the interment.