R&B Motown Group’s Last Original Member Passes at 85

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Henry Fambrough, a gifted baritone and the final remaining founding member of the renowned R&B ensemble The Spinners, passed away at 85. Fambrough’s death at his Northern Virginia home on Wednesday, February 7, 2024, was due to natural causes, as confirmed by Tanisha Jackson, the group’s representative.

The Spinners, known for enduring hits such as “It’s a Shame,” “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” and “The Rubberband Man,” were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in November of last year. The esteemed honor recognized not just Fambrough, but also fellow members – Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, Bobby Smith, Philippé Wynne, and John Edwards – for their significant contribution to the music world.

In May of last year, Fambrough made a trip to Motown’s Studio A in Detroit, Michigan. This journey was more than a nostalgic visit as it included a donation of 375 costumes and pairs of shoes, worn by The Spinners, to the Motown Museum, preserving the group’s visual and auditory legacy. Fambrough reminisced about the early days, stating, “It was a long time ago. I used to dream about this place,” expressing his deep connection to the birthplace of The Spinners’ journey.

The rise to fame of The Spinners began with their 1970 hit, “It’s A Shame,” which climbed to No. 14 on the Billboard’s Hot 100. Their alliance with Atlantic Records marked a prosperous period, yielding numerous hits, including the chart-leading “Then Came You,” in collaboration with Dionne Warwick in 1974. The group’s achievements are further emphasized by 18 platinum and gold records and six Grammy nominations, highlighting their substantial influence on the R&B and soul music genres.

Starting in 1954 as The Domingoes in Ferndale, Michigan, The Spinners’ transition to Motown Records ten years later initiated a period that significantly reshaped American music. Their narrative extends beyond musical evolution, encompassing the cultural influence exerted through their soulful tunes and harmonious storytelling.

Fambrough’s steadfast commitment to The Spinners and their music was evident throughout nearly seven decades of performance. Despite multiple lineup changes, his baritone voice and leadership ensured the group’s lasting legacy. Jessie Peck, the current Spinners singer, acknowledged Fambrough’s dedication, stating, “He had a desire above all else to keep this going no matter what… He set the standard for the rest of us about how the Spinners should be: always on point, with every step.”

Through the inevitable changes over the years, Fambrough’s presence remained a constant, representing the essence of The Spinners until his retirement in April 2023.

Fambrough leaves behind his wife of 52 years, Norma, and his daughter, Heather, inheriting not just a personal legacy but also a broad cultural heritage.

The music of The Spinners, enriched by Fambrough’s contributions, will persist, inspiring future generations to appreciate the potency of harmony and the elegance of shared melodies.

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