The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

2 July 2005

And then there were two

The Four Tops got through forty-one years (forty-four if you count their pre-Tops identity as the Four Aims) without a personnel change, and when one came, there was no choice in the matter: Lawrence Payton died in the summer of 1997.

The Tops continued until lead singer Levi Stubbs suffered a stroke in 2002 and retired, at least temporarily, from touring.

Now a second Top has passed on: Renaldo "Obie" Benson, yesterday in his hometown of Detroit.

As a kid growing up on the cusp between rock and roll and R&B, I spun more Four Tops sides than any other Motown act, excepting possibly the Supremes, and while later Tops tracks tended toward All Levi, All The Time, I never forgot the harmonies. And Obie has one other distinction: he co-wrote "What's Going On," arguably Marvin Gaye's greatest record.

It's a measure of the times, and of my time in particular, that I'll certainly miss Luther Vandross, but I'm just floored by the loss of one of the Four Tops.

Posted at 9:03 AM to Tongue and Groove