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Four Tops – “Baby I Need Your Loving,” Pop #11

Few had heard of the Four Tops before this song was released in the summer of 1964, but the public quickly became acquainted. The quartet’s debut single sold over a million copies – a feat equally impressive in today’s iTunes era – and landed just outside the Top 10.

Songwriters and producers Holland-Dozier-Holland went the Phil Spector route in the studio, hauling in a 40-piece string section and supplementing the Four Tops’ voices with backing vocals from the Andantes, a female trio also signed to Motown. Spector’s Wall of Sound productions were simultaneously big and small. For all the attention lavished on the strings and vocals, check out the echo on those finger snaps. That’s ultimate flattery for Spector.

Levi Stubbs’ lead vocals capture the ache and longing of a lover hoping to be forgiven. The way he sings the line “lately I’ve been losing sleep” perfectly captures a midnight soul search in a bed too big.

While the competition between the Four Tops and Temptations raged within Berry Gordy’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio, on the carts and among fans, the Four Tops introductory offering more than equaled the Temptations breakthrough “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”

An incredibly durable number, the song charted in various arrangements (and punctuations, appearing as both “Baby I Need Your Lovin'” and “Baby, I Need Your Loving,”) for nearly 20 years after it was released. Folk singer Johnny Rivers had the first cover hit in 1967, but it has also been a hit for lounge singer O.C. Smith, soul singer Geraldine Hunt, pop idol Eric Carmen and, finally, funk singer Carl Carlton in 1982. — by Joel Francis

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