|Lawrence Albert Payton|
Payton in 1967
March 2, 1938|
|Died||June 20, 1997
Payton and Renaldo Benson attended the same high school in Detroit and met Levi Stubbs and Abdul Fakir at a school birthday party. The four teenagers began singing in 1953 as The Four Aims but later changed their name to the Four Tops. Although successful in the local area as a performance group, recording success eluded them until signing with the newly established Tamla Motown label in 1963. They then became one of the biggest recording acts of the sixties, charting more than two dozen hits through to the early eighties. They are listed by Billboard Magazine as one of the Top 100 Artists of All Time.
Payton is credited for the vocal arrangements and the "smooth seamless harmony' of the Tops sound. He also sang lead on the songs "Feel Free"(from the Catfish album), "Until You Love Someone" and "The Girl From Ipanema" from the Four Tops Live! album (from their Motown days) but he was often overshadowed by the more popular Levi Stubbs. Stubbs praised Payton's contribution saying "He did everything music wise, he had a terrific ear, he was a terrific guy, perfect pitch, he just knew what he was doing, he was a genius".
The original Four Tops enjoyed continued success as a headline performance act and remained together for 43 years until Payton's death in  1997, aged 59, from liver cancer in Southfield, Michigan. He was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Lawrence Payton's Career Awards as a member of The Four Tops:(Not all inclusive)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1990: Hollywood Walk of Fame 1997: Vocal Group Hall of Fame 1999: Grammy Hall of Fame 1998: Grammy Life Achievement Award 2009: Billboard Magazine Top 100 Recording Artists of All Time
- Wikipedia page-The Four Tops
- Payton obituary in the Los Angeles Times
- Wikipedia-The Four Tops