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The Temptations

The Temptations

Rhythm and blues group

Signed to Motown Records

Scored First Number One

Pioneered Psychedelic Soul

Filed Lawsuit Against Former Member

Selected discography

Sources

First formed in 1961, The Temptations are one of the few surviving groups from the days when Motown reigned the airwaves. In forty years, the group has dealt with numerous changes in the groups lineup and the ever-changing tastes of popular music. Despite such changes, The Temptations have managed to maintain their style, sound, and popularity.

It was in 1961 that two members of the Primes, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, and three members of the Distants, Otis Williams, Elbridge Bryant, and Melvin Franklin decided to form a group. Although both the Primes and the Distants were popular in their local Detroit, neither group had produced a national hit. The quintet decided on the name, the Elgins. But the group soon learned that the name of a high-quality watch had already been adopted by another music group. Finally, the group decided to call themselves the Temptations. You can see today that it was the perfect name, wrote Otis Williams in his book Temptations. It was about style and elegance but also suggested romance and, frankly, sex. From their earliest days, Williams added, the group made a conscious effort to cultivate an image of sophistication. Williams wrote, In our songs and in our moves, we were subtler and more romantic than some other guys, who were always grunting and sweating and carrying on.

Signed to Motown Records

The Temptations auditioned for Berry Gordy, and, impressed by their harmonizing, Gordy immediately offered them a contract on the spot. Now a fixture of Motown Records roster, the group played at numerous Detroit clubs, earning an enthusiastic following. The also sang backup for many Motown stars, in addition to touring with the Motortown Revue. After none of the groups first seven singles produced a hit, Gordy briefly renamed the act the Pirates. Gordy had hoped the 1962 name change would change their luck, but the group was relieved their releases as the Pirates, Mind Over Matter and Ill Love You Till I Die, also flopped. Williams explained in Temptations, Wed have died for a hit, but if it meant going through life in pirate uniforms, no thanks!

Elbridge Bryant left the group in 1964, due to personality conflicts, and he was replaced by David Ruffin, a Detroit singer who had enjoyed some solo success. Ruffin possessed an athletic stage presence, performing spins, cartwheels, and splits. The addition of Ruffin brought an exciting new dimension to the act. The Temptations then began working with Cholly Atkins, choreographer for Gladys Knight and the Pips, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Cadillacs, and other

At a Glance

Born Otis Williams (original member) on October 30, 1949, in Texarkana, TX; born Melvin Franklin (original member) on October 12, 1942, in Montgomery, AL, died 1995; born Paul Williams (original member) on July 1, 1939, in Birmingham, AL, died on August 17, 1973, in Detroit, MI; born Edward James Kendricks (original member) on December 17, 1939, in Birmingham, AL, died on October 5, 1992; Elbridge Bryant (original member). Born David Ruffin (replaced Bryant, 1964) on January 18, 1941, in Wyanot, MS, died of a drug overdose on June 1, 1991; born Dennis Edwards (replaced Ruffin, 1968) on February 3, 1943, in Birmingham, AL; born Richard Street (replaced Paul Williams, 1971) on October 5, 1942, in Detroit, Ml; Ricky Owens (replaced Kendricks, 1971 ); born Damon Otis Harris (replaced Owens, 1971 ) on July 3, 1950, in Baltimore, MD; Glenn Leonard; Ron Tyson; Louis Price; Ollie Woodson; Theo Peoples; Harry McGill-berry; Terry Weeks; Barrington Henderson.

Career: Originally formed as the Elgins, Detroit, Ml, 1961; name changed to The Temptations, 1961; albums include: Meet the Temptations, 1964; The Temptations Sing Smokey, 1965; Temptin Temptations, 1965; The Temptations Greatest Hits, 1966; Temptations Live!, 1967, 1969; Temptations Greatest Hits, Volume II, 1970; All the Million-Sellers, 1981; The Temptations 25th Anniversary, 1986; To Be Continued, 1986; Together Again, 1987; Phoenix Rising, 1998; Ear-Resistable, 2000; Awesome, 2001.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best R&B Performance by a Group, for Cloud Nine, 1969, for Papa Was a Rolling Stone, 1972; Grammy, Best R&B song and Best R&B instrumental performance, for Papa Was a Roiling Stone, 1972; American Music Award, Best Vocal Group, 1974.

Addresses: Office c/o Motown Record Corporation, Hollywood, CA 90028.

successful groups. Atkins developed many of the Temptationss trademark dance steps.

The group finally achieved national success with the 1964 single, The Way You Do the Things You Do. Written and produced by Smokey Robinson, the song peaked at number 11 on the pop charts. Motown, capitalizing on this success, released Meet the Temptations that same year. The album included The Way You Do the Things You Do, and its B side, Just Let Me Know, along with all of the groups previously unsuccessful singles.

Scored First Number One

The following year, the Temptations had their first number-one hit, My Girl. Also that year, the group worked with producer Norman Whitfield, and the end result was one of their most popular songs. Aint Too Proud to Beg marked the start of a long and successful collaboration. Norman Whitfield could and did produce soft, smooth ballads with the best of them but, stylistically speaking, he was headed into another realm, wrote Otis Williams in Temptations. His backing tracks crackled with more intricate percussion, wailing, almost rock-style guitars, and arrangements that featured us as five distinct singers instead of one lead singer fronting a homogenized doo-wop chorus. [He] took us in new directions without losing the heart of our sound.

The Temptations remained one of the most popular acts in America for several years. They played the hottest nightclubs and appeared on numerous television shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show. The group also joined with the Supremes for a series of recordings and television appearances that broadened both groups appeal. A special four- headed microphone was designed specifically for them, allowing members enough distance from each other so that, even when executing complicated moves, they were in no danger of stepping on each other.

Success, however, brought its own set of problems. Some members proved unable to handle their wealth and fame. Ego clashes often flared within the group, and the late 1960s and early 1970s saw several changes in the groups roster. David Ruffin left to pursue a solo career in 1968 and was replaced by Dennis Edwards. Edwardss career with the group was fitful; he was asked to leave in 1974 and replaced by Louis Price, but returned briefly in 1979, only to be turned out in favor of Ollie Woodson. Edwards returned to the group a third time in 1986. In 1970 Eddie Kendricks decided to go solo, and he was replaced by Ricky Owens of the Vibrations. Owens was almost immediately dismissed in favor of Damon Harris, who stayed with the group until 1974. Harris was then replaced by Glenn Leonard, who was, in turn, replaced by Ron Tyson in 1982. Paul Williams, with his worsening alcoholism and related health problems, was asked to leave the group in 1971; his spot was filled by Richard Street. Williams committed suicide two years later.

Pioneered Psychedelic Soul

At the same time that the group was undergoing these rapid roster changes, the Temptations and producer Whitfield still managed to pioneer the psychedelic soul movement. Characterized by an electric funk sound and socially conscious lyrics, this new musical trend yielded several big hits for the Temptations, including Cloud Nine, Ball of Confusion, and Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Whitfield persisted with the movement long after psychedelic soul had run its course, and the once-creative relationship between the Temptations and their producer became stagnant. Otis Williams reported in Temptations that Whitfield began minimizing the singers contributions: On some tracks our singing seemed to function as ornamentation for Normans instrumental excursions. When we started reading articles where writers referred to us as the Norman Whitfield Choral Singers, we really got mad.

Fans of the group were disappointed as well, and record sales fell dramatically. The Temptations sought more artistic control, but Berry Gordy was deaf to their requests. Frustrated, the group severed its ties with Motown in 1976.

It was now the age of disco, and many Motown acts faded away. A two-year contract with Atlantic failed to help the Temptations out of their slump. In 1979 they renegotiated a return to Motown. Shortly thereafter, the classic Motown sound came back into vogue and the Temptations were once again in demand. Ruffin and Kendricks briefly rejoined the group for a tour, but personality conflicts soon resurfaced, and the Temptations quickly returned to a five-man lineup. After their appearance on the Motown 25 television special, they teamed with the Four Tops for a T n T Tour that ran worldwide for nearly three years.

The early 1990s saw the deaths of several Temptations. On June 1, 1991 David Ruffin, who had left the group in 1968, died of a drug overdose. Ruffins ex-wife, Sandra, told People Weekly, The only downfall he had was the drugs. He was really trying, but after 24 years with the drugs, he just couldnt conquer it The following year, Eddie Kendricks, one of the groups original members, died of lung cancer. Another original member, Melvin Franklin, died in 1995. Franklin had left the group in 1994, due to failing health. After suffering a series of brain seizures in February of 1995, Franklin was hospitalized, dying of heart failure a month later. Otis Williams was now the only living, original member of the Temptations.

This decade also saw further changes in the Temptationss roster. Ali Woodson, a member since 1983, left the group to pursue a solo career. Theo Peoples joined the group in the early 1990s. Temptation Ron Tyson had seen Peoples perform at a St. Louis jazz club, and invited Peoples to audition. Peoples told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the new members of the group try to sound as much like the original members as possible, maintaining a consistent Temptations sound. But maybe we also interject a little of ourselves, he added.

Filed Lawsuit Against Former Member

When former member Dennis Edwards began performing under such names as Dennis Edwards & the New Temptations or Dennis Edwards & the Temptations Review, Williams, along with Franklins estate, filed suit against Edwards, claiming trademark infringement. Edwards told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch I need a piece of the name in order to make people remember me. In 1999 a federal judge issued a permanent injunction preventing Edwards from performing under any variation of the groups name.

In 1998 the Temptations released Phoenix Rising. Like the mythological figure of the phoenix, Williams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Weve always been able to rise out of the ashes. Thats what The Temptations have always been about. In the fall of 1999, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Phoenix Rising was the groups first album to ever be officially certified platinum. This is tremendously gratifying after so many years, Williams told Billboard.

Also in 1998, the story of the Temptations came to life on the small screen when NBC aired a two-part mini-series. Based on Williamss book, Temptations, the mini-series was also co-produced by Williams. Everywhere I would go from Hollywood to Europe, people would ask me when we were going to do a show like this, Williams told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

In November of 2001 the Temptations released Awesome. The groups lineup now included Williams, Tyson, Harry McGillberry, Terry Weeks, and Barrington Henderson. There have been a total of 19 members over the years. I always compare the Temptations to a great sports franchise, Williams told the Seattle Post- Intelligencer. Great players will come and go but the team endures. We are a team that has endured against tremendous odds and we will continue to endure. The Temptations are forever.

Selected discography

Albums

Meet the Temptations, 1964

The Temptations Sing Smokey, 1965.

Temptin Temptations, 1965.

The Temptations Greatest Hits, 1966.

Temptations Live!, 1967, 1969.

Temptations Greatest Hits, Volume II, 1970.

All the Million-Sellers, 1981.

The Temptations 25th Anniversary, 1986.

To Be Continued, 1986.

Together Again, 1987.

Phoenix Rising, 1998.

Ear-Resistable, 2000.

Awesome, 2001.

Albums with Diana Ross and the Supremes

Diana Ross and the Supremes Join the Temptations, 1968.

TCB, 1968.

Together, 1969.

On Broadway, 1969.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 3. Gale Research, 1990.

Dalton, David and Lenny Kaye, Rock 100, Grosset & Dunlap, 1977.

Hardy, Phil and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, McDonald, 1987.

Miller, Jim, editor, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1976.

Williams, Otis, and Patricia Romanowski, Temptations, Putman, 1988.

Periodicals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 30, 1998.

Billboard, May 3, 1986 October 14, 1992; August 20, 1994; November 22, 1997; January 9, 1999; November 6, 1999.

Dallas Morning News, November 1, 1998.

Jet, March 13, 1995; January 18, 1999; August 16, 1999.

Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1996.

Morning Call (Allentown, PA), February 9, 2002.

Newsweek, January 27, 1986.

People, August 25, 1986; September 1, 1986.

People Weekly, June 17, 1991.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 30, 1998; February 1, 2002.

Seattle Times, November 1, 1998.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 4, 1998; March 14, 1999; July 1, 1999; October 7, 2000; June 3, 2001.

On-line

Biography Resource Center, Gale Group, 2001, http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC

Joan Goldsworthy and Jennifer M. York

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The Temptations

The Temptations

Vocal group

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

The Temptations, one of the few groups to survive from the days when the sound of the Motown record company ruled the airwaves, have maintained their popularity through more than two decades of changing styles in popular music. Commenting on the group in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, Joe McEwen and Jim Miller wrote: While the Four Tops covered the frenetic side of the Motown sound and the Miracles monopolized its romantic side, the Temptations quite simply stood as the finest vocal group in Sixties soul: they could outdress, outdance, and outsing any competition in sight. Today, the Tempts continue to project this dynamic yet elegant image in both their recordings and their live performances.

The group came together in Detroit in 1961, when Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, of the Primes, joined forces with Otis Williams, Al Bryant, and Melvin Franklin of the Distants. Both the Primes and the Distants were popular in Detroit, but neither had had a national hit. The five men originally christened the new group the Elgins, after a high-quality watch. Upon learning that the name was already taken, they settled for calling

For the Record

Originally formed in Detroit, Michigan, in 1961 as the Elgins; name changed to the Temptations, 1961; original group consisted of Otis Williams (born October 30, 1949, in Texarkana, Texas), Melvin Franklin (born October 12, 1942, in Montgomery, Alabama), Paul Williams (born July 1, 1939, in Birmingham, Alabama; died August 17, 1973, in Detroit, Michigan, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound), Edward James Kendricks (born December 17, 1939, in Birmingham, Alabama), and Elbridge Bryant . Paul Williams was replaced in 1971 by Richard Street (born October 5, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan). Eddie Kendricks was replaced in 1971 by Ricky Owens; Owens was replaced in 1971 by Damon Otis Harris (born July 3, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland); Harris was replaced in 1974 by Glenn Leonard; Leonard was replaced in 1982 by Ron Tyson .Elbridge Bryant was replaced in 1964 by David Ruffin (born January 18, 1941, in Wyanot, Mississippi); Ruffin was replaced in 1968 by Dennis Edwards (born February 3, 1943, in Birmingham, Alabama); Edwardss spot was filled from 197679 by Louis Price and from 198286 by OUie Woodson .

Awards: Grammy Award for best rhythm and blues performance by a group, 1969, for Cloud Nine, and 1972, for Papa Was a Rolling Stone ; Grammy Awards for best rhythm and blues song and best rhythm and blues instrumental performance, 1972, for Papa Was a Rolling Stone American Music Award for best vocal group, 1974.

Addresses: Office c/o Motown Record Corporation, Hollywood, Calif. 90028.

themselves the Temptations. You can see today that it was the perfect name, commented Otis Williams in his book Temptations. It was about style and elegance but also suggested romance and, frankly, sex. Williams added that from their earliest days, the group consciously cultivated a sophisticated image: In our songs and in our moves, we were subtler and more romantic than some other guys, who were always grunting and sweating and carrying on.

After a few months of rehearsing, the Temptations auditioned for Detroit record producer Berry Gordy. Impressed by their intricate harmonizing, Gordy immediately offered them a contract with his fledgling record company, Motown. In their early days, the group played numerous gigs at Detroit clubs (where they had an enthusiastic following), sang backup for many of Motowns established stars, and toured the country with the Motortown Revue in the company of the Supremes, Dionne Warwick, and others. Despite their obvious talent, however, the Temptations released seven singles without a hit. Gordy briefly renamed the act the Pirates in 1962, hoping to change their luck. The groups members were relieved when the Pirates Mind Over Matter and Ill Love You Till I Die flopped. Williams explained in Temptations, Wed have died for a hit, but if it meant going through life in pirate uniforms, no thanks! By 1964, personality conflicts forced Al Bryant to leave the group; he was replaced by David Ruffin, a Detroit singer who had enjoyed some solo success. Ruffin had an athletic stage presence; his spins, cartwheels, and splits added an exciting new dimension to the Tempts act. Further improvements came through the groups association with Cholly Atkins. This long-time professional dancer, who had served as choreographer for Gladys Knight and the Pips, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Cadillacs, and other successful groups, developed many of the Temptations trademark smooth moves.

National success finally came in 1964 with The Way You Do the Things You Do, a tune written and produced by Smokey Robinson, which peaked at number eleven on the pop charts. Capitalizing on the songs popularity, Motown released Meet the Temptations, an album containing The Way You Do the Things You Do, and its B side, Just Let Me Know, along with all of the groups previously unsuccessful singles. In 1965 another Smokey Robinson song, My Girl, became their first number-one hit. Like most of the Tempts early music, it was a ballad that Robinson had produced as well as written. In 1966 the group worked with producer Norman Whitfield for the first time, cutting one of their most popular songs, Aint Too Proud to Beg. It was the beginning of a long and successful collaboration. Norman Whitfield could and did produce soft, smooth ballads with the best of them but, stylistically speaking, he was headed into another realm, wrote Otis Williams. His backing tracks crackled with more intricate percussion, wailing, almost rock-style guitars, and arrangements that featured us as five distinct singers instead of one lead singer fronting a homogenized doo-wop chorus. [He] took us in new directions without losing the heart of our sound.

For several years, the Temptations were one of the most popular acts in America. They played the hottest nightclubs, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and numerous other television programs, and did a series of recordings and television appearances with the Supremes that broadened both groups appeal. Their stage routine became even more refined after a special four-headed microphone was designed for them. It allowed them to keep their distance so that even when executing complicated moves, they were in no danger of stepping on each other. Their great success brought its own set of problems, however. Some members proved unable to handle the wealth and popularity that had come their way. Ego clashes within the group became common. There were many personnel changes during the late sixties and early seventies: David Ruffin left to pursue a solo career in 1968 and was replaced by Dennis Edwards. Edwardss career with the group was fitful; he was asked to leave in 1974 and replaced by Louis Price; he returned briefly in 1979 but was soon turned out in favor of Ollie Woodson; and he came back to the group a third time in 1986. In 1970, Eddie Kendricks decided to follow Ruffins lead and go solo; he was replaced by Ricky Owens of the Vibrations, but Owens was almost immediately dismissed in favor of Damon Harris, who stayed with the group until 1974. Harris was then replaced by Glenn Leonard, whose spot was taken by Ron Tyson in 1982. Paul Williams, considered by some as the soul of the Temptations, was asked to leave the group in 1971 because of his worsening alcoholism and related health problems; his spot was filled by Richard Street. Two years later, Williams committed suicide in Detroit.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Temptations and producer Whitfield pioneered the psychedelic soul movement, which was characterized by an electric funk sound and socially conscious lyrics. The trend yielded several big hits for the Tempts, including Cloud Nine, Ball of Confusion, and Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Whitfield stuck with it long after it had been imitated enough to become a cliche, however, and the once-creative relationship between the Temptations and their producer stagnated. Otis Williams reported in Temptations that Whitfield began minimizing the singers contributions to their own albums: On some tracks our singing seemed to function as ornamentation for Normans instrumental excursions. When we started reading articles where writers referred to us as the Norman Whitfield Choral Singers, we really got mad. The Temptations fans were disappointed as well. Record sales fell dramatically. The Temptations sought more artistic control over their recordings, but Berry Gordy was deaf to their requests. Frustrated, the group severed its association with Motown in 1976.

A two-year contract with Atlantic failed to help them out of their slump, however. It was the age of disco, when many Motown acts faded away. The Temptations weathered their share of personnel changes and inactive periods, but remained intact. In 1979 they renegotiated with Motown and returned to their old company. Shortly thereafter, the classic Motown sound came back into vogue and the Temptations were once again in demand. They reunited briefly with Ruffin and Kendricks for a tour, but personality conflicts soon resurfaced, and they quickly returned to a five-man lineup. After their appearance on the Motown 25 television special, they teamed with the Four Tops for a TnT Tour that played to enthusiastic audiences around the world for nearly three years.

Selected discography

Singles; for Gordy Records, except as noted

The Way You Do the Things You Do, 1964.

My Girl, 1964.

Since I Lost My Baby, 1965.

Get Ready, 1966.

Aint Too Proud to Beg, 1966.

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep, 1966.

(I Know) Im Losing You, 1966.

I Wish It Would Rain, 1967.

Cloud Nine, 1968.

(With the Supremes) Ill Try Something New, Motown, 1969.

I Cant Get Next to You, 1969.

Ball of Confusion (Thats What the World Is Today), 1970.

Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me), 1971.

Papa Was a Rollin Stone, 1972.

Keep Holding On, 1975.

I Just Dont Know How to Let You Go, Atlantic, 1979.

Sail Away, 1984.

Treat Her Like a Lady, 1984.

How Can You say That Its Over, 1985.

I Wonder Who Shes Seeing Now, Motown, 1987.

LPs; for Gordy Records, except as noted

Meet the Temptations, 1964.

The Temptations Sing Smokey, 1965.

Temptin Temptations, 1965.

The Temptations Greatest Hits, 1966.

Temptations Live!, 1967.

Cloud Nine, 1969.

Temptations Greatest Hits, Volume II, 1970.

All the Million-Sellers, 1981.

The Temptations 25th Anniversary, Motown, 1986.

To Be Continued, 1986.

Together Again, Motown, 1987.

LPs; with Diana Ross and the Suprêmes; all for Motown

Diana Ross and the Suprêmes Join the Temptations, 1968.

TCB, 1968.

Together, 1969.

On Broadway, 1969.

Sources

Books

Dalton, David and Lenny Kaye, Rock 100, Grosset & Dunlap, 1977.

Hardy, Phil and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, McDonald, 1987.

Miller, Jim, editor, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1976.

Williams, Otis, and Patricia Romanowski, Temptations, Putman, 1988.

Periodicals

Billboard, May3, 1986.

Newsweek, January 27, 1986.

People, August 25, 1986; September 1, 1986.

Joan Goldsworthy

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"The Temptations." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"The Temptations." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/temptations

"The Temptations." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/temptations