Kendricks, Eddie 1939–1992
Eddie Kendricks 1939–1992
Eddie Kendricks’s silken falsetto vocals were integral to the success of the Temptations, one of the musical groups that brought Detroit’s Motown label to national prominence in the 1960s. He often sang lead vocal in the group’s songs, many of which relied structurally on the contrast between his gentle, graceful high tenor and the southern-gospel growl of group-mate David Ruffin. Kendricks would have been assured of a place in posterity for his virtuoso performance on his final single with the Temptations, the breathtaking“JustMy Imagination,” but he went on to a successful solo career after leaving the group.
Like the other members of the Temptations, Eddie Kendricks was a native of the South. He was born in Union Springs, Alabama, on December 17, 1939, and grew up in Birmingham. Along with his school friend, Paul Williams, he headed North in the mid-1950s to seek fame and fortune in the music business. The two men had honed their skills while singing doo-wop music in Birmingham. They settled first in Cleveland, and hooked up for a time with a group called the Cavaliers. While they were in Cleveland, a booking agent told them about the live music scene that flourished in Detroit’s African American neighborhoods.
In 1959, Kendricks and Williams moved to Detroit and joined with Otis Williams (no relation to Paul), Elbridge Bryant, and Melvin Franklin to form the Primes. This group, which went by the name of the Elgins for a time, gained a strong following in Detroit’s nightspots. The popularity of the Primes led to the formation of a“sister” group, the Primettes. The Primettes were headed by a whisperyvoiced singer named Diane Ross. She later changed her name to Diana Ross and the group became known as the Supremes.
In 1960 the Primes, later renamed the Temptations, signed a recording contract with the Miracle label. This label was one of the first imprints established by the visionary African American recording executive, Berry Gordy. The Temptations continued recording, first for the label that bore Gordy’s own name, and later for the newlychristened Motown label. They also opened for Gordy’s star act, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. This association with Robinson finally helped the Temptations
At a Glance …
Born Eddie Kendricks in Union Springs, AL, on December 17, 1939; Died October 5, 1992, in Birmingham; went by name Eddie Kendricks until 1980s; began using original form of name by early 1980s. Education: attended high school in Birmingham.
Career; R&B vocalist. Helped form group the Primes, 1960; signed to Miracle label, owned by Motown Records creator Berry Gordy, 1961; name of group changed to Temptations, ca. 1961; worked with Motown songwriter Smokey Robinson, 1963-64; recorded and performed with Temptations, 1961-70; solo vocal career, 1971-92; recorded for Arista and Atlantic labels; appeared in reunions with Temptations and individual Temptations vocalists, 1982-92.
crack the charts for the first time. Their first charted single was“The Way You Do the Things You Do,” which was written by Smokey Robinson and featured a new group member, David Ruff in.
The Temptations became wildly popular with both rhythm and-blues and pop audiences, placing twenty-one singles in the Top Twenty pop charts between 1964 and 1971. Kendricks sang lead vocal on several of those hits, including the upbeat“Get Ready,” and sang in harmony with Ruff in on many more. He stayed with the Temptations during several personnel changes, but when the Temptations came under the direction of writer-producer Norman Whitfield in the late 1960s, Kendricks’s role in the grou was reduced. In 1970, after singing lead on one of the Temptations few ballads, “Just My Imagination,” Ken dricks decided to strike out on his own. Many critics considered“Just My Imagination” as Kendricks’s finest performance with the group. He had already left the Temptations when the song spent three weeks atop Billboard magazine’s pop chart in 1971.
Kendricks moved to Motown’s sister label Tamla, and his solo career got off to a respectable start with“Girl, You Need a Change of Mind (Part I),” which was released in 1972. His 1973 proto-disco hit“Keep On Truckin’” reached Number One on the R&B charts, crossed over to pop, and eventually sold an estimated three million copies. Kendricks followed up this hit with“Boogie Down” and other singles drawn from his nine Tamla albums, and remained a presence on the music charts throughout most of the 1970s. Songs such as“Son of Sagittarius,” “Tell Her Love Has Felt the Need,” “One Tear,” “Shoeshine Boy,” “Get the Cream Off the Top,” “Happy,” and”He’s a Friend” all hit the R&B Top Ten.
Although he had anticipated the disco movement in some respects, sales of Kendricks’s records plummeted toward the end of the 1970s. Moves to the Arista and Atlantic labels failed to improve sales. In 1982, the Temptations’ reunited for a tour and a new album, which scored a hit single, “Standing On the Top.” Although the Temptations reunion did not last, Ruffin and Kendricks continued performing together.
In 1984 Ruffin and Kendricks recorded an album together, Live at the Apollo with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick, “and performed at the Live Aid charity concert the following year. They also collaborated with the Philadelphia“blue-eyed soul” hitmakers Daryl Hall and John Gates, who modeled their restrained soul vocals on Kendricks’s style. During the early 1990s Kendricks teamed with another ex-Temptation, Dennis Edwards, on the song“Get It While It’s Hot.” Kendricks, Ruffin, and Edwards also toured together with a Temptations-themed show.
In 1991, Kendricks was diagnosed with lung cancer and doctors removed one of his lungs in an effort to save his life. The surgery seemed to improve Kendricks’s health and he was able to tour in Europe and Japan in the summer of 1992. He also sued Motown Records, claiming that royalties owed to him had been withheld. Before the case could be settled, Kendricks’s cancer reappeared and he returned to Birmingham, where he died on October 5. At the time of his death, Kendricks did not have health insurance and soul singer Bobby Womack organized two benefit concerts to help Kendricks’s family with their financial burdens.
All by Myself, Tamla, 1971.
People . . . Hold On, Tamla, 1972.
Eddie Kendricks, Tamla, 1973.
Boogie Down, Tamla, 1974.
For You, Tamla, 1974.
The Hit Man, Tamla, 1975.
He’s a Friend, Tamla, 1976.
Goin’Up in Smoke, Tamla, 1976.
Slick, Tamla, 1978.
At His Best, Tamla, 1978.
Vintage 78, Arista, 1978.
Love Keys, Atlantic, 1981.
(with David Rufftn)
David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, RCA, 1987.
(with David Ruffin, Daryl Hall, and John Oates)
Live at the Apollo with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick, RCA, 1985.
(with the Temptations)
Anthology (greatest hits), Motown, 1973.
Reunion, Motown, 1982.
Contemporary Musicians, volume 3, Gale, 1990.
Romanowski, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Fireside, 1995.
Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, St. Martin’s, 1989.
Williams, Otis, and Patricia Romanowski, Temptations, Putnam’s, 1988.
Billboard, October 17, 1992, p. 12.
Jet, October 26, 1992, p. 53.
New York Times, October 7, 1992.
Rolling Stone, November 26, 1992, p. 24.
—James M. Manheim
"Kendricks, Eddie 1939–1992." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/kendricks-eddie-1939-1992
"Kendricks, Eddie 1939–1992." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved April 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/kendricks-eddie-1939-1992
Members: Barrington Henderson, baritone vocals (born Washington, Pennsylvania, 10 June 1956); Harry McGilberry Jr., bass vocals; Ron Tyson, tenor vocals (born Monroe, North Carolina, 8 February 1948); Terry Weeks, tenor/baritone vocals (born 23 December 1962); Otis Williams, tenor vocals (born Texarkana, Texas, 30 October 1941). Selective former members: Dennis Edwards, baritone vocals (born Birmingham, Alabama, 3 February 1942); Melvin Franklin, bass vocals (born Birmingham, Alabama, 12 October 1942; died Los Angeles, California, 23 February 1995); Eddie Kendricks, tenor vocals (born Birmingham, Alabama, 17 December 1939; died Birmingham, Alabama, 5 October 1992); David Ruffin, tenor/baritone vocals (born Whynot, Mississippi, 18 January 1941; died Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1 June 1991); Paul Williams, baritone vocals (born Birmingham, Alabama, 2 July 1939; died Detroit, Michigan, 17 August 1973).
Best-selling album since 1990: Phoenix Rising (1998)
Hit songs since 1990: "Soul to Soul," "I'm Here"
As the most commercially successful male group at Detroit's famed Motown Records during the 1960s, the Temptations set a new standard for vocal artistry and stage presentation. Their intricate harmonies, dazzling choreography, and flashy costumes provided a model for virtually every male rhythm and blues group that followed them, from the early 1970s band the Jackson 5 to 1990s superstars Boyz II Men. Most remarkably, the Temptations retained their distinctive sound long after most of the original members had departed, keeping their style fresh into the 1990s and beyond.
The Temptations were formed in Detroit in 1961, created from members of two separate vocal groups, the Primes and the Distants. Sparked by the high, ethereal tenor of Eddie Kendricks, and, after 1964, the gospel-charged vocals of Mississippi-born David Ruffin, the Temptations' 1960s records were models of vocal refinement, enlivened by moments of calculated abandon. With the tight Motown studio band the Funk Brothers providing instrumental support, the group turned out a string of melodic, joyous hits that rank as some of the most memorable singles of the decade: "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "My Girl," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," and "I Wish It Would Rain."
While famous for their youthful pop and R&B hits, the Temptations proved their versatility with the album In a Mellow Mood (1967), featuring older, "standard" tunes executed with graceful skill. In 1968 the troubled, unpredictable Ruffin was replaced by fiery vocalist Dennis Edwards, who led the group on hits featuring a grittier sound more in keeping with the toughness of late 1960s R&B: "Cloud Nine," "I Can't Get Next to You," and the moody, sinuous "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." Although Kendricks left the group for a solo career in the early 1970s, the Temptations continued recording top-notch material into the 1980s, with hits such as the tuneful ballad, "Lady Soul" (1986). In 1989 the group was honored for its profound influence with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The early 1990s were marked by loss: Ruffin, after decades of drug problems and financial insolvency, died from an overdose of crack cocaine in 1991, while former tenor Kendricks died of lung cancer the following year. After recording another album of standards, For Lovers Only (1995), the group suffered the passing of member Melvin Franklin, who collapsed from a brain seizure in 1995. Because of the many changes in personnel over the years, the lineup on the group's 1998 album, Phoenix Rising, and its fine follow-up, Ear-Resistable (2000), is substantially different from the "classic" Temptations of the 1960s and 1970s, with tenor Otis Williams acting as group leader, co-producer, and lone original member.
The most striking aspect of Ear-Resistable is its consistency with past efforts. By recruiting new members tenor/baritone Terry Weeks and bass Harry McGilberry, Williams preserved the rich harmony sound that made the group famous. At the same time, the album sounds wholly contemporary, featuring the seductive hit, "I'm Here," produced by 1990s R&B artist Joe. On the ballad "Proven and True," the high falsetto vocals of Ron Tyson interact with Barrington Henderson's rough baritone to create a mood of visceral excitement. The expert way in which the members exchange leads on the song, underscoring the melody with complex harmonies, is a testament to the group's ongoing integrity. Eschewing the sometimes off-key vocal approach of modern R&B artists such as Usher and Mary J. Blige, the Temptations honor their roots with performances that are full-bodied, aggressive, and exciting.
In 2001 the group released another album, Awesome, which makes for pleasant listening while lacking the distinctive fire of its predecessor. The subtly grooving "My Baby," however, captures the group's classic intensity through the powerful drive of Henderson's vocals, while "That's How Heartaches Are Made" is a charming, jazzy update of a 1963 hit by sultry R&B vocalist Baby Washington. In keeping with the group's fractious history, this successful period was not without its share of controversy. During the late 1990s former lead vocalist Edwards, his gravelly voice intact, toured nationally with an entirely different group of Temptations, an example of the confusion that often reigns when classic groups from the 1960s break up and divide into separate aggregations. After a prolonged court battle with Otis Williams, who holds the trademark to the name Temptations, Edwards was forced to perform as "The Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards."
The Temptations have overcome divisiveness, death, and changing trends in pop and R&B music to become one of the most durable acts in history, one of the few groups to experience hits in every decade since the 1960s. Through the seasoned leadership of Otis Williams, the group has remained contemporary without sacrificing the richness of their unique harmony sound.
Meet the Temptations (Gordy, 1964); The Temptations Sing Smokey (Gordy, 1965); Temptin' Temptations (Gordy, 1965); In a Mellow Mood (Gordy, 1967); All Directions (Gordy, 1972); Truly for You (Gordy, 1984); For Lovers Only (Motown, 1995); Phoenix Rising (Motown, 1998); Ear-Resistable (Interscope, 2000); Awesome (Universal, 2001).
O. Williams with P. Romanowski, Temptations (New York, 1988).
"Temptations, The." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/temptations
"Temptations, The." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved April 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/temptations