Abdul Duke Fakir from The Four Tops

As quick with a quip as he is with a tenor solo, Abdul ‘Duke ‘Fakir of the original Four Tops describes himself as ‘The Last Top Standing’, even as he details with love and nostalgia the rise of this supergroup, which pre-dated Motown by six years.

“We were four kids from the Detroit ghetto,” he reminisces.  “Levi Stubbs and me went to Pershing High together; we met  Lawrence Payton and Obie Benson at a friend’s party.”
The four began to sing together, and found such magic in their harmonies that they formed a group called The Four Aims, later renamed The Four Tops.

“We spend many tough years before our first hit, but they were wonderful bonding years, learning years.  Then came Motown—a long, beautiful story.  Motown is a binding love, one that binds folks together across the globe.”

Certainly, their music had that effect on the soldiers in Vietnam.  ‘What’s Going On?’ is cited as the most influential piece of music that veterans can remember while overseas.  Fakir describes in fascinating detail the composing of that song, with Obie reciting lyrics as Marvin Gaye worked out a melody on his piano.

“Had we known how many Vietnam veterans loved that piece, how many considered it ‘their ticket home, emotionally’, I promise you, we would have written many, many more like that.

“Problem was, we didn’t realize it until they were back and coming to our shows.  ‘Still Waters Run Deep’ is another Four Tops tune that they mention as being of paramount importance to them while serving in Vietnam.”

Fakir laments the poor treatment that these men received when they returned home; he’s old enough to remember the hero’s welcome given returning vets from World War II.  “In some ways, the Vietnam vet had a tougher war experience than those from World War II.  I can’t imagine what our attitudes must have done to them mentally.  The treatment they received was just so… ungrateful of us…”

Still true to his Detroit roots, Fakir is a local treasure.  With a new crew, he still performs nearly every weekend in a n act that has proved viable for 56 years.  You can bet that ‘What’s Going On’ is high on the request list.



Contact Us