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
Temptations, The, Motown’s most popular and most enduring male vocal group.Membership: Eddie Kendricks, ten. (b. Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 17, 1939; d. there, Oct. 5, 1992); Otis Williams (real name, Otis Miles), bar. (b. Texarkana, Tex., Oct. 30, 1941); Melvin Franklin (real name, David English), bs. (b. Montgomery, Ala., Oct. 12, 1942; d. Los Angeles, Feb. 23, 1995); Paul Williams, bar. (b. Birmingham, Ala., July 2, 1939; d. Detroit, Mich., Aug. 17, 1973); Eldridge Bryant. Bryant left in late 1963, to be replaced by David Ruffin, bar. (b. Meridian, Miss., Jan. 18, 1941; d. Philadelphia, June 1, 1991). David Ruffin left the group in 1968, to be replaced by Dennis Edwards (b. Birmingham, Ala., Feb. 3, 1943). David Ruffin’s brother Jimmy Ruffin (b. Collinsville, Miss., May 7, 1939) was a solo artist for Motown. Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams left The Temptations in 1971, to be replaced by Richard Street (b. Detroit, Mich., Oct. 5, 1942) and Damon Harris (b. Baltimore, Md., July 3, 1950). Later members included Glenn Leonard, Louis Price, Ali Ollie Woodson, Ron Tyson, Theo Peoples, and Ray Davis.
The evolution of The Temptations began during the late 1950s with two Detroit-based groups, The Primes and The Distants. The Distants, with Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Richard Street, and Eldridge Bryant, had been formed by members of The Questions and The Elegants. The Primes (whose companion group The Primettes later became The Supremes) had formed in Birmingham, Ala., and included Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. In I960, Kendricks and Paul Williams joined Bryant, Franklin, and Otis Williams to become The Elgins, signing with Berry Gordy’s Miracle label. They changed their name to The Temptations in 1961 and switched to the Gordy label in 1962, scoring their first R&B hit with “Dream Come Home.” In 1963, choreographer Cholly Atkins started teaching the group intricate synchronized dance routines that became their performance trademark. Late that year, Bryant quit the group and was replaced by David Ruffin.
In early 1964, The Temptations achieved their first major pop hit with ’The Way You Do the Things You Do,” co written and produced by William “Smokey” Robinson and featuring the lead vocals of Eddie Kendricks. After the major pop hit “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue),” written by Eddie Holland and Norman Whitfield, the group scored a top pop and R&B hit with the classic “My Girl/’ cowritten (with Ronald White) and produced by Robinson, with Ruffin on lead vocals. Subsequent major pop and smash R&B hits for The Temptations produced by Robinson included “It’s Growing/’ “Since I Lost My Baby,” and “My Baby” (cowritten by Robinson and Warren Moore) and Robinson’s “Get Ready.”
The Temptations next recorded primarily under songwriter-producer Norman Whitfield, who produced (and coauthored with Eddie Holland) the top R&B and smash pop hits “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You.” Frank Wilson coauthored and produced the crossover smash “All I Need,” and Whitfield produced and coauthored the crossover smashes “You’re My Everything,” “(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need,” the classic “I Wish It Would Rain,” and “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You).” In July 1968, David Ruffin left the group for a solo career and was replaced by Dennis Edwards of The Contours. By then, former Distant and Monitor member, Richard Street, began filling in for an ailing Paul Williams.
David Ruffin’s brother Jimmy had been recording for Berry Gordy’s Soul label since 1964. He scored a near-smash pop and R&B hit with “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” in 1966 and subsequent major crossover hits with “I’ve Passed This Way Before” and “Gonna Give Her All the Love F ve Got.” David Ruffin managed a smash pop and R&B hit with “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” in 1969, followed by the major R&B hits “I’ve Lost Everything I Ever Loved” and “I’m So Glad I Fell for You.” A 1970 duet album yielded a major R&B hit with “Stand by Me,” but by 1972, Jimmy Ruffin had left the Motown organization. David Ruffin stayed on, eventually scoring a top R&B and near-smash pop hit with “Walk Away from Love” and near-smash R&B hits with “Heavy Love” and “Everything’s Coming up Love” in 1975 and 1976. In 1980, Jimmy Ruffin scored a near-smash pop hit with “Hold on to My Love,” cowritten and produced by Bee Gee Robin Gibb.
The reconstituted Temptations were teamed with The Supremes in 1968 and 1969. They scored a smash crossover hit with a remake of Dee Dee Warwick’s late 1966 hit “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and a major crossover hit with “I’ll Try Something New.” Beginning in late 1968, Norman Whitfield began experimenting with psychedelic soul and social consciousness for The Temptations. With this new style, The Temptations scored a top pop and R&B hit with the classic “I Can’t Get Next to You” and smash R&B and pop hits with “Cloud Nine,” “Run Away Child, Running Wild,” “Psychedelic Shack,” and “Ball of Confusion,” all cowritten by Whitfield and Barrett Strong.
The Temptations returned to their mellow ballad style in 1971 for the top pop and R&B hit classic “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” with Eddie Kendricks on lead vocals. That summer, Kendricks left the group for a solo career and was permanently replaced by Damon Harris. Around the same time, Paul Williams retired from touring due to illness and was replaced by stand-in Richard Street. On Aug. 17, 1973, Paul Williams was found dead in his car in Detroit, an apparent suicide at the age of 34.
In 1973, Eddie Kendricks’s solo career took off. The disco-style songs “Keep on Truckin’ (Part 1)” and “Boogie Down” became top R&B and pop hits and were followed by seven R&B smashes, including the major pop hits “Son of Sagittarius” and “Shoeshine Boy.” In 1978, he switched to Arista Records, where he managed one major R&B hit, “Ain’t No Smoke without Fire.”
From late 1971 to 1974, The Temptations scored numerous smash R&B hits for Motown. Of these, “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” and “Let Your Hair Down” became major pop hits, the classic “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” was a top pop hit, and “Masterpiece” proved a near-smash pop hit. After Norman Whitfield left the Motown organization, The Temptations achieved top R&B hits with “Happy People” (cowritten by Lionel Richie) and “Shakey Ground” (their last major pop hit) and the R&B smash “Keep Holding On” in 1975 and 1976. In 1975, Glenn Leonard replaced Damon Harris, who returned to his former group (which later became Impact) before attempting a solo career in late 1978. Dennis Edwards left the group from 1977 to 1979, replaced by Louis Price.
The Temptations switched to Atlantic Records in May 1977, but were back at Gordy by 1980, by which time Edwards had returned to replace Price. In 1982, The Temptations reunited with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks for one album and tour. The reunion album yielded a R&B smash with “Standing on the Top—Part 1,” featuring Rick James. Ron Tyson replaced Glenn Leonard in 1983, the year The Temptations toured internationally with The Four Tops. In 1983, Ali Ollie Woodson replaced Edwards and the group managed another R& B smash with “Treat Her Like a Lady.” However, they would not achieve another major pop hit until 1991. Between 1986 and 1987, The Temptations had smash R&B hits with “Lady Soul,” “I Wonder Who She’s Seeing Now,” and “Look What You Started.”
In May 1985, David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick (he had shortened his name) joined white soul singers Daryl Hall and John Oates for the reopening of the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The four scored a major pop hit with “The Apollo Medley,” which comprised “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and “My Girl.” Ruffin and Kendrick subsequently toured together and later recorded a duet album that yielded a major R&B hit with “I Couldn’t Believe It.” On June 1, 1991, David Ruffin died in Philadelphia of a drug overdose at the age of 50. On Oct. 5, 1992, Eddie Kendricks died in Birmingham, Ala., of lung cancer at the age of 52.
In 1989, The Temptations scored a smash R&B hit with “Special,” and, in 1991, they accompanied Rod Stewart on the near- smash pop hit “The Motown Song” from his Vagabond Heart album. By 1992, The Temptations were regularly touring with The Four Tops. The group continued to record for Motown in the 1990s, but, on Feb. 23, 1995, Mel vin Franklin died in Los Angeles of heart failure at the age of 52. By the late 1998 broadcast of the NBC-TV miniseries “The Temptations” and the release of Phoenix Rising, The Temptations were anchored by Ron Tyson and original member Otis Williams.
THE TEMPTATIONS: Meet The Temptations (1964); The Temptations Sing Smokey (1965); Temptin’ Temptations (1965); Gettin’ Ready (1966); Live! (1967); With a Lot O’ Soul (1967); In a Mellow Mood (1967); I Wish It Would Rain (1968); Live at the Copa (1968); Cloud Nine (1969); The Temptations Show (TV; 1969); Puzzle People (1969); Christmas Card (1969); Psychedelic Shack (1970); At London’s Talk of the Town (1970); Sky’s the Limit (1971); Solid Rock (1972); All Directions (1972); Masterpiece (1973); The Temptations (1974); A Song for You (1975); House Party (1975); Wings of Love (1976); Hear to Tempt You (1977); Bare Back (1978); Power (1980); Give Love at Christmas (1980); The Temptations (1981); Reunion (1982); Surface Thrills (1983); Back to Basics (1983); Truly for You (1984); Touch Me (1986); To Be Continued (1986); Together Again (1987); Special (1989); Milestone (1991); For Lovers Only (1995). The Supremes: The Supremes Join The Temptations (1968); T.C.B.(1968); Together (1969). JIMMY RUFFIN: Top Ten (1967); Ruff ’n Ready (1969); Groove Governor (1970); Sunrise (1980). DAVID AND JIMMY RUFFIN:1 Am My Brother’s Keeper (1970). DAVID RUFFIN: My Whole World Ended (1969); Doin’ His Thing—Feelin’ Good (1969); David Ruffin(1973); Me ’n Rock ’n Roll Are Here to Stay (1974); Who I Am (1975); Everything’s Coming Up Love (1976); In My Stride (1977); So Soon We Change (1979); Gentleman Ruffin (1980). DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES WITH DAVID RUFFIN AND EDDIE KENDRICK: Live at the Apollo (1985). DAVID RUFFIN AND EDDIE KENDRICK: Family (1987). EDDIE KENDRICKS: All By Myself (1971); People-Hold On (1972); Eddie Kendricks (1973); Boogie Down (1974); For You (1974); The Hit Man (1975); He’s a Friend (1975); Goin Up in Smoke (1976); Slick (1977); Vintage 78 (1978); Something More (1979); Love Keys (1981). MONITORS (WITH RICHARD STREET): Greetings! We’re The Monitors (1969). TRUE REFLECTION (WITH GLENN LEONARD): Where I’m Coming From (1973). IMPACT (WITH DAMON HARRIS): Impact (1976); The ’Pac Is Back (1977). DAMON HARRIS: Damon (1978). Dennis Edwards: Don’t Look Any Further (1984); Coolin’ Out (1985).
T. Turner, with B. Aria, Deliver Us from Temptation: The Tragic and Shocking Story of The Temptations and Motown (N.Y., 1992); O. Williams, with P. Romanowski. Temptations (N.Y., 1988).
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).
During their more than three decades of entertaining, the rhythm-and-blues quintet has seen a number of replacements involving twenty-one group members and fifty-seven albums. Formed from the merger of the Primes and the Distants, based in Detroit in 1960, the original Temptations included Eldridge Bryant (baritone, replaced by David Ruffin in 1963; Ruffin was replaced by Dennis Edwards in 1968; Edwards by Louis Price in 1977; Price by Ali-Ollie Woodson in 1983; Woodson by Edwards in 1987; Edwards by Woodson in 1988; and Woodson was replaced by Terry Weeks in 2003), Eddie Kendricks (first tenor; replaced by Ricky Owens for one show only in 1971; Owens was replaced by Damon Harris that year; Harris by Glenn Leonard in 1975; and Leonard by Ron Tyson in 1983), Paul Williams (second tenor; replaced by Richard Street in 1971; Street by Theo Peoples in 1992; Peoples later joined the Four Tops and was replaced by Barrington Henderson in 1998; and Henderson was replaced by G. C. Cameron in 2003), Otis Williams (baritone; the only remaining original member and of no relation to Paul), and Melvin Franklin (bass; after his sudden death, he was replaced by Parliament/Funkadelic's Ray Davis in 1995; Davis was replaced by Harry McGillberry in 1996; and McGillberry by Joe Herndon in 2003). The original quintet was signed by Berry Gordy to the Motown label in 1960. It was barely noticed when the group released material as The Pirates in 1962.
The group's major successes are defined by three distinct periods. First, featuring a crossover doo-wop style with various lead singers and trademark choreography by Cholly Atkins that resulted in several hit singles, including "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (number eleven, 1964), "My Girl" (number one, 1965), and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (number thirteen, 1966). Kendricks's smooth falsetto and David Ruffin's rugged baritone marked this classic lineup from 1964 to 1968.
The second period, beginning in 1966, featured producer Norman Whitfield arranging Grammy-award winning songs for five distinct lead singers rather than one lead and a doo-wop chorus. He introduced the "psychedelic soul" sound with its tight brass and engaging social commentary. This style produced "Cloud Nine" (number six, 1969; Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance by a Duo or Group), "Psychedelic Shack" (number seven, 1970), "Ball of Confusion" (number three, 1970), and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" (number one, 1972), a powerful, double-platinum-selling anthem depicting the urban story of a deadbeat dad that sold two million copies. "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" won two Grammies in 1972; one for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus and the other for Best R&B Instrumental Performance featuring the Temptations and orchestral arranger Paul Riser.
The Temptations broke with Motown in 1975 and spent an unsuccessful span signed to Atlantic Records (1977-1979) trying to tap into the disco market. In 1980, they returned to Motown releasing the hit "Power." That same year, there was a failed attempt to reunite the original group. They reunited, more or less, in 1982 when Ruffin and Kendricks joined the five current members for the Reunion album and the Tribute to the Temptations national tour, but Ruffin's no-shows and problems with Motown sullied the tour. The group was of course featured in the televised Motown 25 Special in 1987 and they earned their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Performing on the oldies circuit with groups like the Four Tops and the O'Jays, the third phase of their career was marked by the influence of retro television, online sales, and sampling. The Temptations were the subject of an NBC mini-series in 1998 that was number one in its time-slot. That year they released the album Anthology: The Best of the Temptations, which jumped from number fourteen-hundred to number four on Amazon.com, the likely result of their exposure on NBC. Then, in 2000, the biggest-selling album of their career, Phoenix Rising, put the group back on the radar. The album received a Grammy nomination for Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, and the platinum single, "Stay," featuring a sample from the Temps' own 1965 number one hit "My Girl," also was nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. With the release of Ear-Resistable, their fifty-sixth album, featuring R&B crooner Joe and Gerald Lavert as producers, the Temptations garnered their fourth Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album almost thirty years after their previous award. Their fifty-seventh album, released in 2004, was aptly titled Legacy.
Ankeny, Jason. "The Temptations (biography)." The All Music Guide. Available from <http://www.allmusic.com>.
George, Nelson. Where Did Our Love Go? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound. New York: St. Martin's, 1985.
Otis Williams' Homepage. "History." Available from <http://otiswilliams.net/history.aspx>.
Porter, David. "Ray Davis, founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic." Boston Globe. July 8, 2005. Available from <http://www.boston.com/news/globe/obituaries>.
Rosen, Craig. "Temptations Sample Themselves." 08/18/1998 9:00pm, LAUNCH. Available from <http://music.yahoo.com/read/news/12049430>.
The Temptations.com. Available at <http://www.thetemptations.com>.
Williams, Otis, with Patricia Romanowski. Temptations. Updated ed. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002.
kyra d. gaunt (1996)
Updated by author 2005