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Motown showdown
by Nathan Orme
Aug 05, 2009 | 835 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy photo - Legendary Motown group The Four Tops performs at the Silver Legacy in Reno on Saturday. The Four Tops and the Temptations each has one remaining member from the groups’ heyday of the 1960s.
Courtesy photo - Legendary Motown group The Four Tops performs at the Silver Legacy in Reno on Saturday. The Four Tops and the Temptations each has one remaining member from the groups’ heyday of the 1960s.
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It used to seem like oldies radio stations were a filled with songs from Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, the Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops.

Oh, how the times they are a’changin’.

These days, the term “oldies” has migrated with turning of the calendar. Somehow, it has become ‘70s and ‘80s music that are now oldies and anything older is, well, just plain old. But with songs that are likely to stand the test of time, both the Temps and the Tops continue to perform in their modern incarnations, including a show with both Motown legends on Saturday at the Silver Legacy.

Best known for such tunes as “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” the Temptations have been performing for more than 40 years. Originally formed as The Elgins in early 1960s, the great Motown producer Berry Gordy renamed the group the Temptations. Among the founding and so-called “Classic 5” lineup was Otis Williams, who still performs with the group today and is the only remaining original member. That Temptations grouping, along with the songwriting abilities of the great Smokey Robinson, produced the songs “My Girl” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do” in 1964, the former of which was the group’s first No. 1 pop hit and remains the Temps’ best-known song to this day.

The group enjoyed huge success in the 1960s and into the 1970s, highlighted by 1972’s “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” But as with all great stories of musical fame, the Temps’ also included egoes and drugs and inevitable conflict. The group survived the late 1970s and a run-in with funk and and psychedellic soul to re-emerge in the 1980s by reuniting for an album and tour with Classic 5 singer David Ruffin, who was fired from the group when he began demanding special treatment. The group members’ comings and goings are too numerous to count, but today Williams is accompanied by Joe Herndon, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks and Bruce Williamson. The last album put out by the Temps was “Reflections” in 2006, which featured some Motown classics garnered them a Grammy nomination.

Performing with the Temptations will be The Four Tops, whose songs are also seeing less and less radio time but will forever live in many hearts and minds. Formed in the 1950s as The Four Aims, the group consisted of lead vocalist Levi Stubbs, first tenor Abdul “Duke” Fakir, second tenor Lawrence Payton and baritone Renaldo “Obie” Benson — a lineup that lasted until Payton’s death in 1997. Their biggest hits were songs like “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love” and “Bernadette,” also recorded under Motown and Gordy.

In 1990, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with its original lineup there to take the honors. After Payton’s death, the group performed for a while with three members as The Tops before recruiting former Temptations singer Theo Peoples. When Stubbs suffered a stroke in 2000, Peoples took over as lead singer and Ronnie McNeir joined. Stubbs died in 2008 and Benson died in 2005. Payton’s son joined the group in 2005, leaving tenor Fakir as the only surviving original member today.

The Temps/Tops joint performances have been a semi-regular occurrence since 1983’s “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” TV special when Williams and Stubbs decided to revive the Gordy battle-of-the-bands idea from the 1960s.

Only a few tickets remain for this show. To buy them, call 329-4777. Prices range from $50 to $75. The show starts at 8 p.m.
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