Motown royalty turns out for Stubbs funeral

Tue Oct 28, 2008 8:28am EDT
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By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) - 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 in Detroit on Friday to pay tribute to the late Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs, Jr.

The 72-year-old Stubbs -- who died October 17 at his home in Detroit following years of illness -- was celebrated with a funeral 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 "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."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, in noting the Motown artists who have passed away, mistakenly mentioned Otis Williams, the last surviving original member of the Temptations.

Abdul "Duke" Fakir, the sole surviving founding Four Top, emotionally thanked anyone who'd done anything to support the group and concluded that "there will always be, through eternity, the four of us."

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.

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.

Other attendees included 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.

Stubbs was buried at nearby Woodlawn Ceremony.