Exclusive Interview: Duke Fakir from The Four Tops

Exclusive Interview: Duke Fakir from The Four Tops

Last week, original Four Tops member, Duke Fakir, visited Motown the Musical to get a backstage tour from Lucy St Louis (Diana Ross), ahead of the Four Tops & Temptations UK Tour this month. We caught up with the Motown legend to discuss his memories of Motown, Berry Gordy and what he hopes audiences take away from Motown the Musical.

How does it feel to be on a stage like this again?

This is my home.

Every night is different, some nights we can do the same show as we did the night before, but we get a totally different, totally different response because it’s about the audience. That’s the way we were trained. We work to the audience and hopefully they give us something back!

What is your favourite Four Tops memory?

There are so many great moments that we’ve been blessed to experience, but probably the one that I hold close to me the most is the one time we played Carnegie Hall in Detroit in the 60’s. Back then, Carnegie Hall was the apex of concert halls in the world, like the Royal Albert Hall. I think we did one of our best shows that night, it was so memorable. We had to come back 3 times for encores!

When you’re a kid and you dream of, what you call “making it”. You don’t know what “making it” really is, and every time we did something it was always greater than you would think it would be – that was just the ultimate of moments.

How did you meet Berry Gordy?

Well, we had known Berry Gordy even before he owned his record company; he was a camera guy in the nightclubs around Detroit and we were one of the groups that was singing around the different clubs. He and his sisters would take pictures and sell them to people, but he always had this little tape recorder with him. He was writing songs for Jackie Wilson with one of our member’s cousins, so we knew him quite well before he even started.

What was it like to work in Hitsville in the early days of Motown?

It was like joining another family, it really was. When we first got there we were welcomed with open arms. We’d been travelling and doing shows in different places for 9 years before we got to Motown. We were all 5-7 years older than most of the Motown artists but we knew them and we watched them grow up, it was like they were welcoming their big brothers home. We had such a great bond, I remember we were sitting in a reception hall, even before we had anything to do with Hitsville, and we’d be talking about what we would do if we got this, what we would do if we had a number one record or so forth…And the amazing part was, weeks after that they start happening one after the other. It was amazing.

Who were you closest to in the whole Motown family?

I was closest to Mary Wilson of the Supremes, in fact we actually got engaged back in 1964. We almost got married – we were very close – but we decided at the last moment that we were both married to our careers and that we needed to wait. But right now she’s still, and I probably am with her, the dearest of friends. We talk to each other about things we’re doing and get advice from each other, but she’s still one my greatest friends. I think that our friendship lasted much more than marriage would have at that time.

What is your favourite Four Tops song?

My favourite Four Tops song is Baby I Need You Lovin’, our very first hit. It was so life changing and I love the production of it. When it first came out and I heard it on the radio for the first time, to me the production just blew everything away. Wonderful strings, extra voices, the music was just done incredibly well and it was so life changing for each and every one of us, especially for me. I love it because it’s also a good sing-a-long.

How does it feel watching actors play you and The Four Tops in the musical?

It feels very good, of course. What I hope people take away from Motown the Musical is the vision and the story of how it was done. All that it took to go through, to make this wonderful little seed that was planted in Detroit that blossomed into a flower that we all can enjoy. The big story is the music and how it blossomed and how his (Berry Gordy’s) vision of all of this was like a wonderful seed that was planted.

What is your favourite non-Four Tops Motown song?

What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye and “Dancing in The Street” are neck and neck to me. They both tell the Motown story from different angles, you know. “Dancing in The Street” is the happiness, the joy, the music. “What’s Going On” really tells the soulful warmth and understanding and misunderstanding of the world at that particular time.

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