Renaldo 'Obie' Benson

Member of the Four Tops

From Wire Services

Renaldo "Obie" Benson, 69, a member of the legendary Motown singing group the Four Tops, died July 1 at a Detroit hospital of lung cancer, discovered when he had a leg amputated several weeks ago because of circulation problems, his publicist said.

Mr. Benson's rich baritone formed the foundation of the Four Tops' harmonies in such hit songs as "Baby I Need Your Loving," "Reach Out (I'll Be There)," "I Can't Help Myself" and "Standing in the Shadows of Love." The Four Tops sold more than 50 million records. Mr. Benson's death leaves two surviving members of the original group: Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir. The fourth original Top, Lawrence Payton, died of liver cancer in 1997. They are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1970, after witnessing police beating up residents in San Francisco, Mr. Benson with Al Cleveland composed "What's Going On" with Al Cleveland, recorded later that year by Marvin Gaye to become one of the most venerated works in American popular music.

Mr. Benson "enjoyed every moment of his life," Fakir told the Detroit Free Press through a publicist. "He put a smile on everyone's face, including my own."

The Four Tops began singing together in the 1950s under the name the Four Aims and signed a deal with Chess Records. They later changed their name to the Four Tops. The group signed with Motown Records in 1963 and produced a string of hits over the next decade, making music history with the other acts in Berry Gordy's Motown lineup.

Mr. Benson was active with the group even into his sixties. The group last played April 8 on the "Late Show With David Letterman."