Motown: -The Temptations -The 1961 - 1978 Years

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The Temptations formed in 1961 and were made up of singers from several doo-wop groups. The Cavaliers (1955-57), The Primes (1957 -1960), The Siberians/The El Domingoes (1958 -1959), Otis Williams & The Distants (1959 -1960), and The Elgins (1959 - 1960). The Elgins re-christen themselves, The Temptations before signing with Miracle Records, a subsidiary of Motown Records in 1961.

The original line up of the Temptations was tenor, Elbridge "Bones" Bryant (1939 – 1975), Otis "Big Daddy" Williams (baritone and secondary lead singer), first tenor and lead singer, Eddie Kendricks (1939 – 1992), secondary lead singer, Paul Williams (1939 -1973), and bass lead singer, Melvin Franklin (1942 – 1995 ). The Temptations began singing background for Mary Wells. A little later Gordy renamed a quartet called the Downbeats as the Elgins and they continued to record for Motown.

For their first two Temptations' first singles, Paul Williams sang lead, then on their first chart entry, Eddie Kendricks was the lead singer. "(You're My) Dream Come True", went to number 22 on the R&B chart in 1962. Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks shared the leads during this early period, with Al Bryant, Otis Williams, and Melvin Franklin occasionally singing lead.

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In 1963, the single, "I Want a Love I Can See", produced by Smokey Robinson, failed to chart. By this time Al Bryant was growing frustrated with the group's lack of success and after a couple of violent confrontations with Paul Williams, he was fired from the group and replaced by David Ruffin in 1964. Bobby Rogers co-wrote and produced "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (1964) with Eddie Kendricks on lead and the single became the Temptations' first Top 20 hit. Follow-ups. "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" and "I'll Be in Trouble" sold well but failed to top the charts.

Smokey Robinson and Ronnie White (The Miracles) had written "My Girl", and wanted David Ruffin to sing lead. When the single was released at the end of 1964, it became the Temptations' first number-one pop hit. More hits followed "It's Growing" (#3), "Since I Lost My Baby" (#4), and "My Baby" (#4), in 1965.

The follow-up, “Get Ready,” written and produced by Smokey Robinson surprisingly barely scraped into the Top 30. Gordy Jnr was always reluctant to change winning ways, but gave the next single to Norman Whitfield to write. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", with David Ruffin on lead, was a Top 20 hit, and established Whitfield as their new producer. Keen to take the group away from singing ballads, but still with David Ruffin on lead, the more soulful "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep", and "(I Know) I'm Losing You" were Top Ten hits.

More hits came in 1967, but the cohesiveness of the group was interrupted when David Ruffin started to act like a diva, members of the group were increasingly annoyed at the behaviour of their lead singer. David Ruffin felt entitled to have the group renamed, David Ruffin & the Temptations, whilst at the same time demanded Gordy give a full account of the group's earnings. Privately he was using cocaine and regularly missing group meetings, rehearsals, and concerts. The last hit song with David Ruffin in the group, (singing background), was “Please Return Your Love to Me,” it reached #26 in the pop charts. Eventually, David was fired and replaced by Dennis Edwards (formerly The Contours) in 1968. “Cloud 9,” with Dennis as lead singer was the first Motown psychedelic soul track made #36 in the pop charts. In the same year, Diana Ross & The Supremes collaborated with the Temptations to produce two studio albums. "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" from the second album and "Together" were number one hit singles.

Eddie Kendricks was uncomfortable with singing the new psychedelic style and preferred romantic ballads. He was often at odds with Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin, and their relationship became acrimonious, eventually was convinced to leave the group by his fried, David Ruffin in 1970. Damon Harris took over the first tenor position in 1971. Paul Williams was suffering from sickle cell disease and took ill the same year. Otis Williams and the other Temptations decided not to replace him, but instead to engage a fill-in. Richard Street, (The Monitors and The Distants), sang all his parts when Williams was too ill to go on stage. After he diagnosed with kidney disease, he left the group and Richard Street took his place as a permanent member of the Temptations. Williams did, however, received one-fifth share of the group's earnings, and was kept on their payroll as an advisor and choreographer, for the next two years. Paul Williams died in 1973.

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Both "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)" and "Take a Look Around" (1972). were messages from the Temptations to David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, respectively. The latter just scrapped into the top 30. Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote, "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (1972) and an edited seven-minute version was released as a single and became one of the longest hit singles in music history. It topped the pop charts. After Whitfield stopped working with Barrett Strong, he carried on writing and producing for The Temptations, but artistic differences between them, eventually saw Whitfield leave Motown. In 1976, the name "the Temptations" became a registered trademark owned by Otis Williams and (the estate of) Melvin Franklin. Eddie Kendricks, exasperated by a lack of creative and financial control, left Motown in 1978, with the requirement of signing away the rights to his royalties. The group continued to release singles but they failed to reach their previous success. The group continues to record and perform with founder Otis Williams in the line-up.


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