When they’re offstage, members of The Temptations and The Four Tops — two of Motown’s most iconic groups — have nothing but love for each other. It’s a different story when the microphones are turned on.
“We’re very competitive,” said Abdul “Duke” Fakir, of the Four Tops. “That’s the way Motown was built. Basically we competed all the while. But we competed in a wonderful way — brother against brother.”
Fakir and Otis Williams, his opposite number in The Temptations, will be renewing their rivalry for the best tunes on Broadway this winter for a seven-concert stand between Dec. 29-Jan. 4 at the Palace Theatre.
The two men are the only surviving original members of their groups. “Him and I are in the same position,” said Williams. “Him and I are the last remaining members of our respective groups. We have love for each other.”
The Temptations had hits with “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” “My Girl,” “Get Ready” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” The Four Tops are known for “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” “Baby I Need Your Lovin’,” “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and “Standing In the Shadows (of Love).”
“I never would have imagined that I’d still be here singing songs that are half my age,” joked the 73-year-old Williams. “Those songs feel fantastic even if it is 60 years later.”
The two groups tour often and were last on Broadway in 1986. Their concerts are part nostalgia and part education, reminding the audience of the Motown sound and celebrating such songwriters as Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Eddie Holland.
“I’m very committed on keeping the legacy as strong as possible and hopefully to strengthen it,” said Fakir, 78. “We can only be ourselves, be the best we can and come out swinging.”
The songs they’ll sing are part of modern music’s DNA and the men credit their timelessness to having a story to tell and a great groove. “You have some great music and some great lyrics, and all you have to do is just sing it and just let it flow,” said Fakir.
Both were more critical when it came to discussing today’s music, with Williams admitting, “I’m not that impressed with some of the stuff that I hear on the radio.” As for Fakir, the anger and personal attacks he hears in rap and pop are a turn-off: “The more disrespectful you are, the better they like it. It’s just changing times. That’s the way of the world.”
One irony of their upcoming Broadway concert series is that it will take place not far from the show “Motown,” about Berry Gordy’s Motown Records which features songs from both groups. Fakir and Williams have both seen the musical several times and like it
“It just shows the greatness of Motown that we can be right down the block from the `Motown’ show,” said Williams. “You can leave that theater and come to our theater and see us do it in person.”