The dynamic, talented, and unbelievably charismatic lead singer for the Four Tops died today. For my money, Motown is generally overrated in comparison to Stax/Volt, King, or other indie soul labels, but I'll allow that they never released a bad record in the sixties, and the Four Tops have always been a favorite act of mine even in the company of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Supremes. I love soul singers that always sounded like they're on the verge of collapse, and that's just what Levi brought to the table: an emotional intensity that few others in the smoothed out, poppy Motown stable could match.
I haven't been able to find live footage from the sixties, when lip-sync was ascendant, but here's some video from about ten years ago, shortly before he stopped touring. He still had a more powerful voice at 60 than most pop singers today start out with.
And here's a more recent tribute to the man from Aretha Franklin and the current iteration of the Four Tops. It's hard for me to get through, as it's really sad to see the great man in the shape he was in. But the sweetness and affection is wonderful to see, and very touching.
Oh, that explains it... My wife listens to NPR in the evenings as we putter around doing our routines, and I sorta listen halfway. Last night I was wondering why they were playing all the Four Tops stuff, but didn't make the connection. Sad to hear it- really great and moving music, also my fave Motown. RIP.