Friday, October 17, 2008

Levi Stubbs (1936-2008)

Levi Stubbs (1936-2008)Four Tops frontman Levi Stubbs, who possessed a baritone that could knock you on your ass, has died. He was 72.

The Tops' most memorable hits include "Baby I Need Your Loving," "It's the Same Old Song," "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" and "Bernadette" (WARNING: white people dance to "Bernadette" in this clip from John Larroquette's 1990 slapstick comedy Madhouse, but despite the gratuitous white guy dancing, it's a great scene in an otherwise dumb and forgettable movie and it shows why Larroquette has nabbed the Emmy so many times).

On the film music side, the legendary vocalist and his cohorts performed the catchy theme from Shaft in Africa, "Are You Man Enough?" (which is effectively used in Superbad).

Also, Stubbs lent his booming pipes to Audrey II, the carnivorous alien plant in the star-studded 1986 version of Little Shop of Horrors. Audrey II killed more white people than Candyman.

The Mondo Musicals! blog notes that some critics found Audrey II to be an offensive black caricature (!). Stubbs responded to those criticisms in a 1987 interview and said, "Sure, a lot of black people have big lips, but this is a plant, for crying out loud! That attitude is stupid."

Edward Copeland is right: even though he never appeared onscreen, Stubbs stole Little Shop.

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