HENRY FAMBROUGH the last surviving member of the original SPINNERS died on Wednesday, 7th February. He was 85 and it’s known that he been ill for some time and had been under hospice care recently. He passed away in Sterling, Virginia.
Henry Lee Fambrough was born in Detroit in May 1938 and as a teen joined some of his friends in a vocal group, The Domingoes. In 1961 they morphed into the Spinners – named for the hub caps on the cars rolling off Detroit’s assembly lines. Having scored a contract with Harvey Fuqua’s Tri-Phi label, their first single was the doo-wop flavoured ‘That’s What Girls Are For’ . It was a moderate hit and after more several singles, two years later the Spinners found themselves at Motown after Berry Gordy brought out Tri-Phi.
Despite the clout of being part of Motown, the Spinners enjoyed limited success. The histories will you that the band were never considered as part of the top echelons of the Gordy empire. Indeed during their stint at Hitsville group members worked a drivers, shipping clerks and road managers. Much of their Motown repertoire though is revered by soul collectors – notably things like ‘Truly Yours’, ‘I’ll Always Love You’ and of course, the evergreen original version of ‘Sweet Thing’ – all now considered soul classics. Their biggest Motown hit was in 1970 when their take on the Stevie Wonder song, ‘It’s a Shame’ stormed the charts worldwide.
Despite that late success the Spinners left Motown to sign, on the advice of their friend Aretha Franklin, to Atlantic. Hot writer/producer Thom Bell was assigned to work with them and the rest is the stuff of fairy tales! In short, the Spinners charted five Top 100 singles (and two Top Tens) from their first, eponymous Atlantic LP and they then went on to become one of the biggest soul groups of the 1970s. Premier League indeed!
During their Atlantic heyday, Henry Fambrough served as one the group’s three lead singers (alongside Philippe Wynne and Bobby Smith) and he’s featured on classics like ‘I Don’t Want to Lose You’ as well as co-lead vocals with Wynne on ‘Living a Little, Laughing a Little’, ‘Ghetto Child’ and the duet with Dionne Warwick,’ Just As Long As We Have Love’
Fambrough is heavily featured on the Spinners most recent album, ‘Round The Block And Back Again’ (2021). He’s the only “Spinner” to be on every one of their releases!
Henry took his leave of the Spinners last year. He’d been there for 69 years and is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Fambrough’s survivors include his wife of 52 years, Norma, and daughter Heather Williams.