Home Lifestyle Henry Fambrough, Last of the Original Spinners, Dies at 85

Henry Fambrough, Last of the Original Spinners, Dies at 85

Henry Fambrough, Last of the Original Spinners, Dies at 85


Henry Fambrough, the last surviving original member of the hit-making R&B vocal group the Spinners, died on Wednesday at his home in Herndon, Va. He was 85.

His death was announced by a spokeswoman for the group, Tanisha Jackson. She did not specify a cause.

Mr. Fambrough died less than a year after he announced his retirement, and just a few months after the Spinners’ classic 1970s lineup of Mr. Fambrough, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, Bobbie Smith, Philippé Wynne and John Edwards was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

That same year, the group donated 375 of its performance outfits to the Motown Museum in Detroit. Touring Motown’s Studio A that day, Mr. Fambrough told reporters that he “used to dream about this place” before the Spinners began recording there in the 1960s — and that he sometimes had to convince his wife that he was going to the studio when he left the house in the middle of the night.

Originally known as the Domingoes, the Spinners were formed in 1954 in Ferndale, Mich., a northern suburb of Detroit. The group joined the Motown roster a decade later but had only one big hit for the label, “It’s a Shame,” which was co-written and produced by Stevie Wonder and peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.

They hit their artistic and commercial stride after they signed with Atlantic Records in 1972 and began working with the producer Thom Bell. The ensuing string of hits began with the Top 10 singles “I’ll Be Around” and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” and included “Then Came You,” a collaboration with Dionne Warwick that reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1974. Their last hit was a medley of “Cupid” and “I’ve Loved You for a Long Time” in 1980.

The Spinners were nominated for six Grammy Awards, though they never won. They were inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2015.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Wynne handled most of the group’s lead vocals, but Mr. Fambrough took or shared the spotlight on a few songs, notably “Ghetto Child,” a No. 4 R&B hit in 1973.

Henry Lee Fambrough was born in Detroit on May 10, 1938. His survivors include his wife of 52 years, Norma Fambrough; a daughter, Heather Williams; and a sister, Martha.

Like many other groups of their era who no longer have any original members, the Spinners have continued touring. After Mr. Fambrough announced his retirement in April 2023, he said in a statement: “The Spinners are still here and still singing for our people who want to hear us. And that’s not going to change. We’ll still be there for them.”

The New York Times contributed reporting.


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