It may be the same old song(s), but it will be a different story when the last founding member of the Four Tops is gone. And Abdul "Duke" Fakir says that time could be coming.
Fakir, the lone living member of the iconic Motown group's original lineup, tells Billboard exclusively that the group's upcoming 60th anniversary in 2014 may be "my farewell tour. I know about that time I'll be right at the age of 80. It doesn't seem I should be singing and traveling the world at that age. Energy-wise and physically I still feel great, but I don't know -- in my head I feel like that may be the right time" to retire from the group.
If he does decide to leave, Fakir says the group -- which currently includes Lawrence "Roquel" Payton, Jr. (the son of the original Top), Ronnie McNeir and Harold "Spike" Bonhart -- is "set up to go on. The other three are really great singers and really live and believe in the legacy." As for his replacement, Fakir says he's "looking for a guy that sings tenor like I do" and already has "a couple people in mind. So the legacy will go on."
Fakir has some things he hopes to accomplish before that goes down, however. He and his daughter have been working on a memoir that he hopes will be out "before the middle of next year," and he's also "working on something else, but I'm keeping that to myself 'til I can get it solid." The Tops meanwhile, are "starting to look at doing some recording" in 2013, possibly with Ne-Yo, with whom Fakir has become "pretty good buddies" and who's expressed interest in working with the Tops.
"He's always liked the Four Tops," Fakir says. "He and his manager have seen us out at Chastain Park in Atlanta. He feels very confident he could do something for us. It will sound like the Four Tops; (Bonhart) sounds quite a bit like Levi (Stubbs), the way he sings. So vocally, harmonically it will sound the same. The type of songs we'd do is debatable. We'd do some A-C, I'm sure. It won't really be hip-hop, but it might be close to that if (Ne-Yo) would join us on a number. I have in mind what I'd like to hear. (Ne-Yo) has in mind what he'd like to hear. It's just a matter of finding the right songs and doing them in the right way."