In 1960 a group of five, young, talented, African-American men formed a group for Motown Records. The group had several different names that include: The Primes, The Distants, Otis Williams and the Distants, The Elgins and The Pirates. However you might know this group more as The Temptations. A group well known for their precise choreography, amazing harmonies, and matching suits entered the mainstream of music in the early 1960’s.
Over the years some of the members have changed along with the style of music. During their early years, The Temptations, recorded and released several songs that did not hit the top twenty. However in 1964 things changed and The Temptations began producing hit after hit after hit. Now The Temptations are well known for their contributions to soul, doo-wop, R&B and adult contemporary music just to name a few.
On January 23, 1964 “The Way You Do the Things You Do” was released by The Temptations. The single was the first to hit the Billboard Hot 100 reaching number 11. “The Way You Do the Things You Do” was co-written by Smokey Robinson and Robert Rogers. Smokey Robinson also produced the song. Lead vocals for “The Way You Do the Things You Do” were sung by Eddie Kendricks with backing vocals by Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams and David Ruffin.
December 21, 1964 was the release date of a very popular song that many of us have heard in several big screen movies. That song was, “My Girl” and topped charts in the number one position on the US Pop and R&B Singles charts. “My Girl” was written and produced by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White. Lead vocals for “My Girl” were sung by David Ruffin with backing vocals by Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams.
“Since I Lost My Baby” was released on June 1, 1965. This is a wonderful song that tells the painful story of losing a lover. Written by Smokey Robinson and co-produced with Norman Whitfield “Since I Lost My Baby” peaked on US Billboard Pop Singles chart at number 17 and the US Billboard R&B Singles chart at number 4. Lead vocals were sung by David Ruffin and backing vocals for “Since I Lost My Baby” by Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams.
February 7, 1966 brought us “Get Ready” by The Temptations. Written and produced by Smokey Robinson, “Get Ready” hit the number one position on the US R&B Singles chart and number 29 on the US Pop Singles chart. Eddie Kendricks sang lead vocals for “Get Ready” with backing vocals by Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and David Ruffin. As an answer to the latest dance craze at the time, “The Duck,” Smokey Robinson produced “Get Ready” as the answer.
On May 3, 1966 “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” hit the US R&B Singles chart at number one and the US Pop Singles chart at number 13. This was one of the first singles that Norman Whitfield wrote and produced for The Temptations. It was co-written with Edward Holland Jr. “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” is a song about pleading with your lover to stay and give you a second chance. Lead vocals were sung by David Ruffin for “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” with backing vocals by Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams and Paul Williams.
December 21, 1967, exactly three years to the date that “My Girl” was released, The Temptations released “I Wish It Would Rain.” Norman Whitfield co-wrote this song with Barrett Strong and Roger Penzabene. A meaningful ballad, “I Wish It Would Rain” topped the US R&B Singles chart at number one and landed at number 4 on the US Pop Singles chart. Lead vocals by David Ruffin with backing vocals by Otis Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, and Melvin Franklin “I Wish It Would Rain” portrays a sorrowful story of a man who has lost the love of his life and wants the rain to hide is tears so no one can see his pain.
“Cloud Nine” was released on October 25, 1968. When the album was released it was the start of a four year psychedelic soul period for The Temptations. “Cloud Nine” was also one of the first songs after Dennis Edwards replaced David Ruffin who had been fired in June of 1968. Norman Whitfield produced “Cloud Nine” and co-wrote it with Barrett Strong. “Cloud Nine” peaked at number 2 on the US Billboard R&B Singles chart and at the number 6 spot on the US Billboard Pop Singles chart. Dennis Edwards sang the lead vocals for “Cloud Nine” with backing vocals by Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams.
“I Can’t Get Next To You” was released on July 30, 1969 and topped both the US R&B and the US Pop Singles chart at number one. This song is about a man having all the power in the world to do whatever he wants but none of it matters if he can’t be with the woman he loves. “I Can’t Get Next To You” does not have just one lead vocalist. All five of The Temptations’ members trade back and forth on the verses through out the song. The members at this time are Dennis Edwards, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams and Otis Williams. “I Can’t Get Next To You” was produced my Norman Whitfield and co-written with Barrett Strong.
On January 14, 1971 “Just My Imagination” was released and landed at number one on the US Pop Singles chart and the Billboard Hot 100. “Just My Imagination” was listed as number 389 in the Rolling Stone magazine list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong were known for their psychedelic soul style of writing, which they used for several of The Temptations hits, however they decided to write and produce a ballad for the group. The Temptations actually preferred the earlier style of music they sang and welcomed the soul filled ballad. Eddie Kendricks provided lead vocals for “Just My Imagination” along with Paul Williams. Backing vocals were sung by Melvin Franklin, Dennis Edwards and Otis Williams. Although this song was a huge success the group was dealing with personal issues. This was the last song recorded by The Temptations with Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams singing.
On September 18, 1972 The Temptations released “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” a song that caused tension with lead vocalist Dennis Edwards because of certain lyrics in the first verse. The song begins with “It was the 3rd of September, That day I’ll always remember, ’cause that was the day that my daddy died,” this was also the same day that Dennis’ father had really died. Dennis felt that the lyrics were written intentionally to upset him although the song wasn’t originally written for The Temptations.
Lead vocals for “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” were sung by Dennis Edwards, Melvin Franklin, Richard Street and Damon Harris. Richard and Damon were added to the group after Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams left. Otis Williams helped provide backing vocals. Despite all the controversy surrounding the song “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” peaked at number 5 on the US R&B Singles chart and landed at number one on the US Pop Singles Chart. It was also listed at number 168 in the Rolling Stone’s magazine list of “500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.”
Like any other group, The Temptations may have had some disagreements along the way but managed to produce several well known hits. Whether you prefer the soulful, doo-wop style or the psychedelic soul style, The Temptations are one of the most successful and well known music groups. You can hear many of their hits in several movies. No other group has been able to match their skills of precise choreography. The Temptations will always be one of the most recognizable and beloved groups to have graced the Motown scene.