Deaths Elsewhere

July 03, 2005

Renaldo "Obie" Benson,

69, a member of the Motown singing group the Four Tops, died Friday in Detroit of lung cancer that was discovered when he had a leg amputated several weeks ago because of circulation problems.

The Four Tops sold more than 50 million records and recorded hit songs such as "Baby I Need Your Loving," "Reach Out (I'll be There)," "I Can't Help Myself" and "Standing in the Shadows of Love."

Mr. Benson's death leaves two surviving members of the original group: Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir. The fourth original member, Lawrence Payton, died of liver cancer in 1997.

The Four Tops began singing together in the 1950s as the Four Aims and signed a deal with Chess Records. They later changed their names to the Four Tops. The group signed with Motown Records in 1963 and produced a string of hits over the next decade. The group last played April 8 on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Chris Griffin,

89, a member of the acclaimed trumpet section in Benny Goodman's big-band orchestra, died June 18 of melanoma in Danbury, Conn.

Mr. Griffin was a member of what critics called "The Biting Brass" trumpet threesome in Mr. Goodman's orchestra, playing alongside Harry James and Ziggy Elman. Duke Ellington once called the three "the greatest trumpet section that ever was."

Mr. Griffin played with the orchestra from 1936 to 1939 and performed in the famous 1938 concert in Carnegie Hall. The concert was a critical moment for swing music, because it was the first time the music, popular with youth, played in a hallowed music hall. After leaving the Goodman orchestra, he went on to play lead trumpet in television orchestras.

Leon "Fafa" Toofa,

67, a master canoe builder from Tahiti, died June 25 after being swept by a large wave into the ocean off Maui in Hawaii.

He was credited with helping to revive the tradition of koa canoe building on Maui beginning in the late 1990s, when the Kihei Canoe Club on Maui harvested its first koa log in more than 77 years.

As part of the building ritual, he would bless the trees before they were harvested and then rely on the club members and others to haul the logs out of the forest, said Charles Noland, a Maui resident who apprenticed with Mr. Toofa.

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