July has only had four days but already we have lost two premier performers. First Luther Vandross and now Renaldo “Obie” Benson, the bass of the Four Tops
who passed away yesterday at the age of 69. The Four Tops have been together since the
early fifties when they were known as the Four Aims, which was primarily a jazz act, which at times toured with Billy Eckstein. The Four Tops and The Dells share the distinction of being the two vocal groups having the same personnel for the longest number period of time. Unlike their label mates at Motown, The Temptations, no member of the group ever aspired to go solo. The Four Tops sold over 50 million records. Their hits included
“Baby I Need Your Loving” “Reach Out I’ll Be There” “I Can’t Help Myself”. Their
career was resurrected in the seventies with the back to back hits “Keeper Of The Castle”
and “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I Got)”. Between 1964 and 1988 the Four Tops had
26 top 40 hits.
Renaldo Benson distinguished himself as a composer also when he co-authored the
Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On?” in 1971. Lead singer Levi Stubbs was not able
to appear with the group due to an extended illness from which he is now recovering. The Four Tops lost Lawrence Payton in 1997 due to liver cancer. Renaldo Benson discovered he had lung cancer when he was hospitalized for a leg amputation due to a
serious problem with circulation. He will always be remembered for the humor he
injected into the group. It was Renaldo whose deep voice you heard in the hit “When She
Was My Girl” sing “Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum” On stage he had perfected his own
dance routine to accompany the song and many times he would just continue doing it long after the other members of the group had stopped singing. Theo Peoples and Ronnie
McNair are likely to become the replacements for the departed Lawrence Payton and
Renaldo Benson should Levi Stubbs’ health continue to improve.