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Legendary music group, The Temptations, are regarded as one of the greatest American vocal groups to ever exist. Even today, The Temptations legacy and impact on R&B and soul music is still prevalent within music circles. A lot of people wonder what was it that made The Temptations such a special group? The Temptations had all the elements of what a group could ask for.
They were a group that had five singers that were all capable of singing lead. They not only focused on singing, but also selling sex as well. They were a group that displayed precision choreography and dance skills during their performances, and their flashy attire and wardrobes dazzled audiences. Throughout the years, the group's lineup has changed. However, the Temptations were arguably at their best during their 'Classic Five' era in the 60's and early 70's.
The Classic Five era of The Temptations members included: Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin, and David Ruffin. This lineup was way before my time, as I wasn't even born during this era. However, often times during life we find ourselves becoming a fan of things from non-traditional methods. For me, it all began with a movie that documented the struggles and triumphs of the then Motown era group.
Each member of The Temptations brought something to the group that made it a complete unit. This article will highlight the five Temptation members that produced classic songs such as 'My Girl', 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg', 'The Way You Do The Things You Do', and 'I Wish It Would Rain'. Enjoy!
Eddie Kendricks was one of the co-founders of The Temptations. Kendricks is remembered for his unique falsetto style of singing, and for being The Temptations wardrobe manager. Kendricks also was responsible for most of the vocal arrangements for the group. Some of the songs Kendricks sang lead on included: 'Dreams Come True', 'The Way You Do The Things You Do', 'Get Ready', and 'Just My Imagination'. Eddie Kendricks left The Temptations in 1971, but returned for The Temptations 'Reunion' tour and album in 1982.
Eddie Kendricks was born in Union Springs, Alabama in 1939. When Kendrick's family moved near the Birmingham area as a child, he met and befriended Paul Williams, who would also become a member of The Temptations along with Kendricks. Kendricks and Williams would later form a group with friends of theirs called The Cavaliers. While looking for more opportunities in the music industry, The Cavaliers moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and later to Detroit where Kendricks and Williams would meet Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin. Along with Elbrigde 'Al' Bryant, Kendricks, Williams, Otis Williams, and Melvin Franklin formed The Temptations.
Although Kendricks remained with The Temptations throughout the 60's, a variety of issues began to push him away from the group. Kendricks later revealed during an interview in 1991 that he considered leaving the group in the mid 1960s, but instead stuck around feeling that he wouldn't receive the support he needed to go solo. After David Ruffin's depature from the group, the group's sound changed as well, which was something Kendricks wasn't receptive to. Kendricks officially left the group in 1971, but would go on to have a successful solo career. Kendricks along with the other members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. A known smoker, Eddie Kendricks was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early 90's. Kendricks eventually succumbed to lung cancer on October 5, 1992 at the age of 52.
Paul Williams was a co-founder of The Temptations, and the group's baritone singer/choreographer. Paul Williams was the group member responsible for incorporating dancing and choreography into the group's performances in addition to singing. Williams sung lead on several popular Temptations songs including: 'Don't Look Back', 'I Can't Get Next to You', 'Cloud Nine', and The Temptations cover of 'For Once In My Life'.
Paul Williams was born and raised in the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama on July 2, 1939. As a kid, Williams met Eddie Kendricks, with whom he would become best friends with. Williams and Kendricks started singing together, and formed a group called The Cavaliers with fellow friends of theirs. After The Cavaliers disbanded, Williams and Kendricks along with friend Kel Osbourne formed The Primes. The trio found themselves a manger in Cleveland Ohio that moved them to Detroit.
The Primes disbanded after Kel Osbourne moved to California. Williams, along with Eddie Kendricks found out that Otis Williams had two openings in his group, and they joined with Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge Bryant to form The Elgins, who would later change their names to The Temptations. Although Paul Williams contribution to the group was important, he began to suffer from personal issues in the mid to late 1960s.
Williams suffered from sickle cell anemia, which often made it difficult for him to perform at times. He became depressed, and began to drink heavily also. Williams's health continued to decline to the point where he was often unable to perform. After a visit to a doctor in 1971, a spot was found on William's liver and he was advised to retire. He was replaced by Richard Street, but stayed on the group's payroll as an adviser and choreographer.
Williams began to record again as a solo artist in 1973. Sadly, Paul Williams was found dead in an alley on August 17, 1973 from a gunshot wound to the head. His death was ruled a suicide, but his family to this day suspects that there was foul play involved. Paul Williams was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his fellow Temptation members in 1989.
Melvin Franklin was a co-founder of The Temptations, and the group's bass singer. Franklin had a very distinct bass voice that would be a signature trademark of The Temptations sound. Franklin sung lead on several of The Temptations songs that included 'I Truly, Truly Believe', Christmas song 'Silent Night', and 'The Prophet'. Franklin is also remembered for his live performance of Paul Robeson's 'Ol' Man River'.
Melvin Franklin was born in Montgomery, Alabama on October 12, 1942. Franklin moved to Detroit at the age of ten, and was a member of several music groups in Detroit as a teenager. One of the groups that Franklin was a part of was The Voice Masters, which also featured Lamon Dozier and David Ruffin, who would later join The Temptations. Franklin met Otis Williams in 1958, and joined William's group Otis Williams and The Siberians.
Following the disbandment of The Siberians, Franklin would remain with Otis Williams as they along with Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Elbridge Bryant formed the group The Elgins. The Elgins would later become The Temptations. Franklin and Otis Williams remained best friends for over 30 years, and were the only two original members never to quit the group. Similar to fellow group member Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin began to battle health related issues in the late 1960s.
Franklin was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and began to take cortisone to combat the disease. The consistent usage of cortisone left Franklin's immune system weakened, and he would eventually develop diabetes. Franklin was shot in both the hand and leg in 1978 while trying to prevent a man from stealing his car. Melvin Franklin died in 1995 after falling into a coma from a number of seizures. He along with his fellow members of the Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
David Ruffin was the last of 'The Classic Five' Temptations to join the group. However, Ruffin was the member that probably had the most impact on the group's success. Known for having a unique raspy voice, Ruffin joined The Temptations in 1964 after Elbridge 'Al' Bryant was fired from the group. Ruffin initially sung background vocals, with the leads being traded between Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. However, Motown artist Smokey Robinson saw something in Ruffin when he became the group's producer and co-writer.
Smokey Robinson wrote and gave the lead to Ruffin on what is probably The Temptations most popular song 'My Girl' in 1964. My Girl became The Temptations first number one single, and the momentum of the song pushed Ruffin into the role of the leading singer. Other popular Temptation songs that Ruffin sung lead on include: 'It's Growing', 'Since I Lost My Baby', 'Beauty's Only Skin Deep', and 'I Wish It Would Rain'.
Ruffin's ego began to take over by 1967, as he began to cause problems for the group. Ruffin became addicted to cocaine, and would often show up late for rehearsals and performances. Ruffin also insisted that the group's name should be changed to David Ruffin and The Temptations, which would lead to a lot of friction between he and Otis Williams. After having enough of Ruffin, the group chose to fire him in 1968. David Ruffin would be replaced by Dennis Edwards.
Ruffin would remain a problem for Motown and The Temptations following his departure. He would often show up at the group's shows, and steal the microphone from Dennis Edwards during performances, which led to the group having to hire added security. Ruffin also sued Motown Records in 1968, seeking a release from his the record label. The case was eventually settled, with Ruffin staying with Motown as a solo artist.
Ruffin had successful years as a solo artist following his tenure with The Temptations. Ruffin developed a friendship with Eddie Kendricks, and the two later joined The Temptations in 1982 for their 'Reunion' tour and album. However, Ruffin continued with many of the habits that led to his firing from the group during the 'Reunion' album tour. Ruffin's addictions led him to miss shows, and subsequently caused the group to lose money. Ruffin would be fired for the second and final time.
Throughout the mid and late 80's, Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks would perform together as a duo. The two would later team up with Dennis Edwards, whom originally replaced Ruffin, and formed the group Ruffin/Kendricks/Edwards: Former Leads of The Temptations. The three were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 along with Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and posthumously Paul Williams.
David Ruffin died on June 1, 1991 in Philadelphia of an 'adverse reaction to drugs'. He was 50 years old at the time of his death.
Otis Williams is one the co-founders of The Temptations, and the only member from the original lineup that is still living today. Now at age 71, Williams currently still performs with the group. Williams rarely sung lead on records for The Temptations, but was primarily known for being the groups leader and organizer. He was also known as the group's 'background tenor in the middle'.
Otis Williams was born in Texarkana, Texas. However, William's mother moved to Detroit Michigan while he was still a toddler. During his teenage years, Williams became interested in singing. It was during his teenage years when Williams helped put together several singing groups headlined as Otis Williams and The Siberians, El Domingoes, and The Distants. It was during his teenage years when he would meet and befriend fellow Temptation member Melvin Franklin, with whom Williams would maintain a friendship with for over 30 years.
Otis Williams along with 'The Classic Five' Temptations and Dennis Edwards was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Williams co-authored a book titled 'Temptations' in 1988. The book was deemed William's personal autobiography, and a history of the group. Ten years later, the book would be adapted into a television miniseries for NBC titled 'The Temptations'.
Throughout the years, public opinion of Otis Williams has been mixed. Some viewed Williams's account of his former group members as being negative and jealous, while others have defended Williams for his brutally honest accounts of the troubles The Temptations shared.
Each member of The Temptations not only had unique voices, they also had different styles, nicknames, and personalities. Here are some added facts about the group.
- Otis Williams received an honorary doctorate from Stillman College in 2006.
- Melvin Franklin was known as 'Blue' by friends and group members. This nickname came from Franklin's love of the color blue.
- Eddie Kendricks favorite food was cornbread, and he was given the nickname 'Cornbread' or 'Corn' by the group.
- The late Rick James was the nephew of Melvin Franklin. James idolized lead singer David Ruffin, and jumped at the chance to produce the song 'Standing on the Top' in 1982 during The Tempations 'Reunion' album.
- Paul Williams took over the live performances of 'My Girl' following David Ruffin's exit from the group.
- Melvin Franklin worked as a voice actor in the 1984 cartoon series 'Pole Position'. Franklin provided the voice of the character Wheels.
- David Ruffin was nicknamed 'Ruff' by group members.
- David Ruffin was the mastermind behind The Temptations trademark four-headed microphone stand.