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Four Tops' Fakir Mourns Loss Of Friend, Bandmate
Abdul "Duke" Fakir was in Jackpot, Nev., over the weekend performing with the other Four Tops. But after Friday's death of Levi Stubbs, his good friend and the Top's original lead singer, his heart wasn't all he way in it.
"It was a fun engagement, but I didn't really want to be there," Fakir, who's now the sole surviving original member of the legendary Motown group, acknowledged on Monday. He returned to Detroit on Sunday night and immediately began making plans for Stubbs' funeral, which is expected to take place this week.
"I was hurting the whole time," Fakir, 72, says of the weekend shows. "I really wanted to just come back home, but we do not disappoint the fans. That was one of the hard weekends for me, though. It's just really hard when the last of three of your best friends have gone. It really hurts."
Stubbs died in his sleep at his home in Detroit after a long series if illnesses -- including cancer and a stroke -- that forced him to stop performing in 2000.
Stubbs' body will be available for public viewing at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 25 and 26) at Swanson Funeral Home, 14751 W. McNichols Road, Detroit. Cal (313) 272-9000. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday (Oct. 27) at Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit. Call(313) 543-6000 or visit www.greatergrace.org.
Fakir had watched his friend deteriorate but says Stubbs' death still came as a blow.
"It still is always a shock even though it's somewhat expected," Fakir said. "I saw him about a week ago and he looked healthier. His face was fatter and he was smiling and he was in good spirits. I really thought he'd pull through longer than he did."
Outside of Stubbs' family, few feel the impact of his loss more than Fakir. The two met as teenagers in 1954 at a house party in Detroit's north end, later joining forces with Lawrence Payton, who died in 1997, and Renaldo "Obie" Benson, who passed away in 2005. Stubbs, who was born Levi Stubbles, even lived for a time with Fakir and his family before they graduated from high school.
"He was dedicated to us," Fakir said about Stubbs' commitment to the group. "He had many chances and many offers to be lured away into his own solo world, but he never wanted that. He said, 'Man, all I really want to do is sing and take care of my family, and that's what I'm doing, so all is well. Everything else that doesn't include you guys, it doesn't mean a thing to me.'
"That kind of character and commitment is really hard to find these days."
Fakir said that Stubbs, who was the godfather to his oldest child, will always be remembered for the voice that powered the Four Tops to 45 chart hits and more than 50 million record sales, primarily for Motown.
"He had such power," Fakir explains. "He had a baritone voice and a tenor range. He could do anything with us voice. He could take you anywhere with it. He could take you to a love scene. He could take you dancing. He could take a great old standard and make you feel like you're right there in that song.
"Just an amazing voice, an amazing interpreter, an amazing man."
Fakir said his home and cell phones have been ringing non-stop as word of Stubbs' death circulated. He spoke to Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., and the Temptations' Otis Williams but was still trying to get in touch with label mainstays such as Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder -- the latter of whom dedicated his weekend concert in Australia to Stubbs, performing the Tops hit "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)."
Fakir said that he and the current Tops -- Payton's son Roquel, former Temptations member Theo Peoples and Motown veteran Ronnie McNeir -- intend to continue performing to honor the Tops' legacy.
"As long as people accept us delivering those songs as close to the original Four Tops as we can, we'll do it," he said. "There'll never be another Levi. We don't expect to replace a voice like that, or a personality like that. But we can keep singing his songs, 'cause the world should always hear them."
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