Advance Notice: Briefs

On this day in 1986: Gov. Blanchard declares it ‘Four Tops Day’ in Michigan

By: - July 29, 2021 6:35 am

Four Tops | Motown Museum photo

On July 29, 1986, then-Michigan Gov. James Blanchard declared it “Four Tops Day.” The Democratic governor, who served between 1983 and 1991, honored the legendary Motown Records vocal quartet who hailed from Detroit and helped to define the sound of the 1960s.

“A lot of marriages were made with your music,” said Blanchard during a reception at the governor’s mansion. “You guys make us very proud.”

Founded as the Four Aims in the Pershing High School area, lead singer Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton remained together for over four decades, performing from 1953 until 1997 without a change in personnel. Fakir is the only remaining original member. Their hits include two Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 singles, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” in 1965 and “Reach Out I’ll Be There” in 1966.

One year later, in July 1987, the Four Tops were among a group of performers who attended the National Governors Association summer conference, which was held in Traverse City. It included Arkansas Gov. and future President Bill Clinton. Blanchard donned a white sequined jacket and Clinton, also a Democrat and chair of the organization, played the saxophone as they performed on stage during a “Motown Revue” event at the conference.

During the performance, Stubbs said to the governors, several of whom were senior in age: “For those of you who have gotten too sophisticated to let your hair down, take it off.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.