Now 83, Abdul “Duke” Fakir still calls Detroit home — when he’s not on the road. His group, the Four Tops, was a professional, polished club and cabaret act for a decade before they signed with Motown. Three of the originals — Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Levi Stubbs and Larry Payton — have passed away. Fakir has trained and performed with replacement singers over the years. Today’s Tops sometimes share a double bill with the latter-day Temptations. The following are edited excerpts from his conversation with AARP about Motown's 60th anniversary.
On recording their smash, “Baby I Need Your Loving” — at 3 a.m.:
We were working in a nightclub, still waiting on our first hit, and [songwriter] Brian Holland came to the club. We got offstage and he said, ‘I got something for you guys, I got this hit.’ He played a raw version on the piano, kinda singing it. We weren’t overly excited. We were just glad we had something that we could work at. He said, ‘Well, I would like you to come to the studio now because your voices are wide awake and trimmed and ready to roll.’ We were night folks anyway. Even if we were not working, we were out seeing people at clubs or whatever, we would stop by Motown at 2, 3 in the morning. Sometimes we’d stay there ‘til sunup, listening to recordings or people working in the studio. It really was 24/7. It was amazing because it was really nonstop.
On the Tops’ soulful collaboration with legendary Motown songwriters, Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier:
What they did was so unique, I think. Before they started writing songs for us, they really wanted to get to know us, as people and as performers. They felt they could really write some songs if they tuned in on our values, our best delivery. They took their time. We played golf together. Myself and Lamont, we used to go out at night, he’d call me to go and watch other acts. We’d all play cards together and knock around. They enjoyed our company and they respected our approach. Then when they started writing for us, they really got the best out of the Four Tops commercially.