Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Temptations vs. The Four Tops!

The tongue-in-cheek title to this post should be taken as lightly as it is intended, because to compare these two groups is similar to comparing the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, each music lover has their own preference! Both the Four Tops and the Temptations sat at the pinnacle of the Tamla /Motown hit factory. Their songs being a permanent fixture in the worldwide music charts of the 60’s, and some of the 70’s! Tunes such as “Reach Out”, “I’ll Be There”, “My Girl”, “Bernadette” and “(I Know I’m) Losing You”, firing the rhythmic heart of millions of music hungry teenagers of the time! It was within the internal intimate and professional structure of the groups that the differences lay.

If there is one point where the Temptations beat anyone else hands down, then it was in size! The tallest Dennis Edwards standing at 6’4” (1.95m), and the smallest Paul Williams a mere 6’ (1.83m), add to that good looks, cool suits and smooth dance steps, and you had a show that would put many of today’s boy bands to shame! The Temptations though were inflicted by a never ending “Ball of Confusion”. Internal jealousies and personal ego trips caused more comings and goings in the groups’ line up than passengers on a Detroit bus! Over 20 singers (including half a dozen lead singers) would stand as the Tempts.
The 'Classic Five'- Temptations.
The ‘Classic 5’, as accepted by most devotees of soul is, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks. The only living survivor of this line up is Otis Williams, who also is the only original Temp to have remained with the group; having been a member for the last 40 years!

 The Temptations in perfect vocal harmony- acapella

Even though the main body of the Tempts was always feuding and changing; the music quality never wavered and the hits kept on coming into the 70’s; with 1972’s “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” being classified as one of the greatest hits of all time. Somehow their music style changed to fit the times, without losing that Temptation silk touch!

The Four Tops couldn’t have been more of a contradiction to the Tempts. The Four Tops were a tight knitted family; no egoistic ravings in this house, they were one for all, all for one! The Tops did not have the same debonair attributes that classed the Temptations; what they did have was Levi Stubbs! Most of the groups of the time were fronted by a tenor, Levi though was a baritone, and his emotive voice, sung a hint away from perfection, was the perfect instrument for the songwriting and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who crafted a stream of hit singles, including two Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits: "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and "Reach Out I'll Be There". Being a grass roots group, it was not surprising that when Motown left Detroit in 1972 to move to Los Angeles, California, the Tops stayed in Detroit and moved over to ABC Records, where they continued to have charting singles into the late-1970s. In all, they had over two dozen hits on Motown during the period 1964-1972 and established themselves as one of the top Soul groups of the era.

                             The Four Tops with deep soul feeling- acapella
The Four Tops were, Levi Stubbs, Renaldo "Obie" Benson , Lawrence Payton , and the only surviving member Abdul "Duke" Fakir. The story of the Four Tops is one of harmony, on and off the stage; it was a marriage where the vow “till death do us part” was taken devoutly.

Which group do I prefer? Both! I have too many memories tied in with their songs to even dare to make a choice!

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  1. Nice post. It's the Four Tops for me for kinda the reasons you hint at above. There was something very special about their kinship, their bond, that kept them such a tight unit for what - forty years? Incredible and makes listening to their records extra emotional. They had such exuberance and their performances looked like best mates having such fun - I get pretty choked up watching old clips of them or even listening to them. Motown's finest group.

  2. I love the Four tops. They had such love for one another. That's what I love most about them, the love and commitment they shared... Throughout all eternity there will always be the Four of them, Lawrence, Obie, Levi, and Duke.

  3. Four Tops for me also. I love their love for one another. Through eternity there will always be: Duke, Levi, Lawrence, and Obie. Love them

  4. Four tops, watched them in concert, only one left alive. He sat and paid tribute to his lost friends/family. They lived in homes next to and across the street. They were not just good friends but the greatest of families. As he talked about their past, the longer he talked, the more emotional he became. The tears rolling diwn his cheeks spoke more than any book written. At that time, i was very proud to be in the audience because we were able to see what true friendship, loyalty and family really means.