Evie Kissack chats to Grammy Award-winning artist, Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir, as he continues to perform with the latter-day version of Motown legends The Four Tops as the last remaining founding member of the musical ensemble.


Having mastered the Motown distinctive sound of call-and-response lyrics paired with catchy melodies, The Four Tops appointed Levi Stubbs as lead vocalist – a singer boasting a dramatic, deep voice which stood out from other frontmen of the time who often held tenor ranges. From here, The Four Tops performed as the original four-piece band for 44 years, before Lawrence Payton sadly passed away in 1997. 

Today, Duke performs classic hits alongside new members Ronnie McNeir, Harold Bonhart and Lawrence’s son, Lawrence Payton Jr, keeping the outstanding legacy and music of The Four Tops alive. 

How is your morning going? 

It’s going well. I’m an early bird, so…I’m normally up at 6:30 each morning anyway. 

That’s the opposite to me! 

I’m good in the morning, and bad in the evening – unless I’m performing. Then it’s the other way around. 

You’re coming to the UK this November for your huge tour Together Again One More Time. Are you looking forward to heading over here?

Oh absolutely. We love the UK – especially Birmingham. The crowds treat us so well. They make us feel like royalty. I’ll tell you what they make us feel like, and this is an old expression of mine, they make us feel like an old Rolls Royce that you polish up and bring out Sunday for a nice drive through the countryside.

Aw! What a wonderful expression.

[Laughs] We feel very loved, respected. Sometimes it still feels like we’re in the sixties and our hit records are playing on the radio the way the crowds respond to them. It’s such a wonderful trip in so many ways. Not just on stage but the Tops, Temps and Tavares…we have so much fun together offstage too. 

You’ve toured extensively with the Temptations and Otis since the 80s and of course have a huge history with the band and the Mowtown music. How does it feel to still be heading out on amazing tours together?

We play golf together if it’s warm enough; we go for food…really we are great friends. But, on stage, it’s ‘to the death’. It’s a true competition, right down the line. On stage, we compete to see who is truly the winners. It’s a wonderful feeling that we can still perform together after all of these years. In our crowds, some people’s favourite band is The Temptations, and their neighbour’s favourite band might be The Four Tops. Everywhere we go the people in the audience are competing too in their way. Sometimes on stage I think we are having more fun than they are! [Laughs]

As performing live must be second nature to you now, I wondered if you ever still get nervous before a show?

I don’t get nervous - I get excited. I still get that great feeling when I hit the stage. The audience makes you feel that way. I’ve been performing in these halls for 60 years but I’ve loved every moment. I will sing every song until I can’t sing another note – as long as we are appreciated. Being on stage is about performing, and making the audience feel at home and a part of what you’re doing. You’re helping them to enjoy the music – that’s what it’s all about. The audience’s enjoyment brings enjoyment to us as performers. Every night, every show. 

You performed with the original band members for 4 decades - how has it been working with Ronnie, Lawrence Jr and Harold? 

It’s bittersweet, of course. It’s different because I don’t have my brothers alongside me, but the new guys are still like family. They’re doing such a great job. I’m working with some of the family to keep The Four Tops name at the same height that it usually is. Lawrence Jr is very good, just like his dad. It’s sometimes just like the [original] guys are still there – they are so similar. It’s as close as you can get to the real deal [Laughs]. 

It must be very moving for you to perform songs you played with your fellow band members and great friends for 44 years? 

We pay tribute every night to the three brothers of mine that have gone on. That makes it feel real, like they are there next to me. We keep the legacy going that they worked so hard for.

Continuing to perform as The Four Tops definitely keeps their legacy alive.

 We really, really miss them, but it’s enjoyable performing the work they have created and that people still accept the songs in the very same way. 




Plus special guests TAVARES


Thursday 22 November 2018

Birmingham Arena 


Tickets available from: www.ticketline.co.uk, 24-hour ticket line 0844 888 9991, or from the venues direct. 


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