It’s difficult to say just when and where the black vocal group was invented. Maybe it was in the late 1920’s when it was becoming noticed; or some other place in history, unrecorded.
On the other hand, it’s not hard to say when it was re-invented. It was in Detroit in 1961, when two local singing groups, “Otis Williams and the Distants”, and “The Primes”, got together and called themselves the Temptations.
The Temptations were the change whose time had come, and they would revolutionize the form.
By this time, it was usual for a vocal group to build itself around one single star to whom the other singers played back-up, but in designing the temptations, founder Otis Williams discarded that model and assembled a extraordinary range of talents.
Otis Williams found the bottomless bass voice of Melvin “Blue” Franklin.
And when the groups fifth member, Elbridge Bryant, departed, the picture was completed by his replacement by a raspy-voiced Mississippi soul man named David Ruffin.
Together, there was nothing that the Temptations couldn’t sing. It was this talent that brought us some of the most memorable songs that tattooed our minds forever. Songs such as “Get Ready”, “Beauty is only Skin Deep”, “Ain’t to Proud to Beg”, and of course the signature hit“My Girl”.
As a result, the Temptations absolutely owned the 60’s and they had no competition.
After five years of singing with the group, the Temptations main lead singer, David Ruffin, left the group over billing issues. However, the departure of David proved fortuitous for the group because a new style of music called “psychedelic soul” was taking over for the new decade of the 70’s. David Ruffin’s replacement, Dennis Edwards, would bring the Temptations an angrier voice for an angrier time. And, the “new” Temptations were formed.
The Temptations brought their magic into the 70’s when they were successful in producing smash hits such as “Can’t next to you”, “Ball of Confusion”, “Just My Imagination”, “Papa was a Rolling Stone” and “Cloud Nine” which won the Temptations a Grammy Award.
Throughout the 70’s the Temptations faced many problems. Paul Williams’ health was deteriorating due to sickle cell anemia and alcohol addiction. Melvin Franklin was suffering from arthritis, and both Dennis Edwards and Eddie Kendricks left the group. For the first time in over 10 years, the Temptations went through a dry spell, and sadly in 1973, Paul Williams committed suicide. Paul Williams 1939-1973
In 1983, Motown came up with the idea of forming a reunion tour. David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, and Dennis Edward returned to the group, which was now composed of the original two members, Otis and Melvin, along with the new replacements, Richard Street, and Ron Tyson. The Temptations were now a mix of the best of the past and present.
As a result the Temptations were together again. The tour lasted nine months and drew sell out crowds across the country.The choreography was perfect and the repertoire of the their classic songs were instantly recognized and appreciated.
Unfortunately, from behind the scenes, things weren’t so good. David Ruffin caused the group problems when he didn’t show up at some of the tours concerts, because of his addiction to drugs. It was also said that Eddie Kendrick’s voice was weakening due to years of smoking. After the tour it was decided that Eddie and David were out of the group for good.
In 1989, the Temptation’s proudest moment was when they were introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their very successful career. All of the original members including Dennis Edwards were now to be remembered forever.
In the 90s the Temptations lost three of their most talented singers. David Ruffin died of a drug overdose, Eddie Kendricks died due to lung cancer, and Melvin Franklin passed away after a series of brain seizures. To this day Otis Williams is the only living original member of the Temptations. Eddie Kendricks 1939-1992 David Ruffin 1941-1991 Melvin Franklin 1942-1995
However, in our minds and hearts the Temptations still live today. The groups music still produces “greatest hits”, “best of” albums, and biography’s. The story of the Temptations was turned into a TV mini-series movie.
Today the Temptations cast a shadow that no present male vocal group has ever been able to overcome. Coming up on 40 years the Temptations still remain what they always have been……