The Four Tops is an African-American vocal quartet formed in 1954 in Detroit, Michigan formerly known to as The Four Aims and later in the 1990’s addressing themselves as The Tops.
The members met each other at high school and began their career in music encouraged by their classmates. This way Levi Stubbs, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson, and Lawrence Payton debuted at a local birthday party.
In 1956, The Four Aims signed to Chess Records and switched their name to Four Tops to keep their identity apart from The Ames Brothers, a singing quartet native to Malden, Massachusetts.
The group jumped from one records label to another for at least four times without finding their way to a breakthrough hit, but improving their stage performance as the years went by.
In 1963, record producer Berry Gordy Jr. invited the guys to join a new records label, Motown, which had already signed The Supremes, The Miracles, The Temptations, and many R&B and soul artists.
The Four Tops signed to Motown creating background vocals for other artists of the company, but eventually breaking into the mainstream in 1965 with the song "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" that peaked at number one on Billboard.
From 1956 to 1998, The Four Tops released 34 albums on Motown, ABC-Dunhill, Casablanca, Arista, and former Chess Records.
The Four Tops produced many top ten hits between the 1960s and the 1970s, including the album Reach Out", released in 1966 with the immortal number one hit song “Reach out I'll be There".
In the 1980’s, The Four Tops focused more on live performances rather than recordings, but in 1997 Lawrence Payton died from liver cancer and the quartet became a trio that changed their name to simply "The Tops".
The quartet was restored after 40 years with no lineup changes and The Tops continued their career until present day, however, in 2005 Obie Benson died from lung cancer.
The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999, ranking number 79 on Rolling Stone Magazine list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
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