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Baby I need your Loving - the Four Tops

In many different ways, the Four Tops were the most successful of all Motown groups: they had as many hits as the other big acts such as the Supremes and the Temptations; they maintained a constant line-up of Levi Stubbs, Abdul Fakir, Lawrence Payton and Renaldo Benson for forty-four years, only changing when Payton died; Levi Stubbs, the greatest of all the Motown lead vocalists, never asked for top billing like Diana Ross, nor threatened to go off on a solo career like Eddie Kendricks or David Ruffin.

Lamont Dozier was a would-be Detroit singer and songwriter who met up with the Holland brothers and wrote the song "Dearest One" which he then recorded on the Melody record label. The song was a commercial flop but it was important as this was the first time they had worked as a team and established a rapport, and thus began to write songs for Gordy's new Motown record label. By the time "Baby I need your Loving" came out in 1964 they had already had hits with Mary Wells and Martha and the Vandellas - most notably the classic "Heatwave". Although the Four Tops had already been going for a decade under one name or another, this was their first single on the Motown label and the first they recorded with Holland -Dozier-Holland. Right from the finger clicking first notes and the spine tingling syncopated backing vocals (I've listened to them a hundred times and just about reckon they're singing

"I really need it babe")

to the opening lead by Levi Stubbs:

"Baby I need your loving

baby I need your loving..."

extracting two completely different expressions of doting adoration out of the same line expressed twice in succession. This is the vinyl arrival of one of the greatest of all soul singers, often not recognised as such because he's singing such great Holland-Dozier-Holland pop, but here he is, his first hit words, born fully-formed and oozing with feeling and confidence, as though he's just popped out of the womb in that beautiful black tuxedo, along with bow tie, moustache and microphone and a delivery team of Earl Van Dyke, Jamie Jamerson, Benny Benjamin and Robert White. His vocal is simultaneously relaxed and dynamic, and, like a great ball-playing sportsman, he seems to have all the time in the world to fit in every line. The chorus to this great song shows that even an ugly, brutal word like "got" can have its moment of beauty in the sun:

"Baby I need your loving


to have all your loving"

The song reached number 11 in the US Hot 100 and was the first of 13 consecutive hits for the Tops that were written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland over the next 4 years, before they (HDH) left the label over a pay dispute with Berry Gordy in 1967 thus ending one of the greatest songwriter/group partnerships that has ever been.

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