The Temptations

The Temptations

In 1961, the Primes disbanded, but not before Otis Williams saw them perform live, where he was impressed both by Kendricks' vocal prowess and Paul Williams' choreography skills. Soon, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Bryant, Franklin, and Kendricks joined together as the Elgins; after a name change to the Temptations, they signed to the Motown subsidiary Miracle, where they released a handful of singles over the ensuing months. Only one, the 1962 effort "Dream Come True," achieved any commercial success, however, and in 1963, Bryant either resigned or was fired after physically attacking Paul Williams. The Tempts' fortunes changed dramatically in 1964 when they recruited tenor David Ruffin to replace Bryant; after entering the studio with writer/producer Smokey Robinson, they emerged with the pop smash "The Way You Do the Things You Do," the first in a series of 37 career Top Ten hits. With Robinson again at the helm, they returned in 1965 with their signature song, "My Girl," a number one pop and R&B hit; other Top 20 hits that year included "It's Growing," "Since I Lost My Baby," "Don't Look Back," and "My Baby."

In 1966, the Tempts recorded another Robinson hit, "Get Ready," before forgoing his smooth popcraft for the harder-edged soul of producers Norman Whitfield and Brian Holland. After spotlighting Kendricks on the smash "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," the group allowed Ruffin to take control over a string of hits including "Beauty's Only Skin Deep" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You." Beginning around 1967, Whitfield assumed full production control, and their records became ever rougher and more muscular, as typified by the 1968 success "I Wish It Would Rain." After Ruffin failed to appear at a 1968 live performance, the other four Tempts fired him; he was replaced by ex-Contour Dennis Edwards, whose less polished voice adapted perfectly to the psychedelic-influenced soul period the group entered following the success of the single "Cloud Nine." As the times changed, so did the group, and as the 1960s drew to a close, the Temptations' music became overtly political; in the wake of "Cloud Nine" -- its title a thinly veiled drug allegory -- came records like "Run Away Child, Running Wild," "Psychedelic Shack," and "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)."

After the chart-topping success of the gossamer ballad "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" in 1971, Kendricks exited for a solo career. Soon, Paul Williams left the group as well; long plagued by alcoholism and other personal demons, he was eventually discovered dead from a self-inflected gunshot on August 17, 1973, at the age of 34. In their stead the remaining trio recruited tenors Damon Harris and Richard Street; after the 1971 hit "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)," they returned in 1972 with the brilliant number one single "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." While the Tempts hit the charts regularly throughout 1973 with "Masterpiece," "Let Your Hair Down," and "The Plastic Man," their success as a pop act gradually dwindled as the 1970s wore on. After Harris exited in 1975 (replaced by tenor Glenn Leonard), the group cut 1976's The Temptations Do the Temptations, their final album for Motown. With Louis Price taking over for Edwards, they signed to Atlantic, and attempted to reach the disco market with the LPs Bare Back and Hear to Tempt You.

After Edwards returned to the fold (resulting in Price's hasty exit), the Temptations re-entered the Motown stable, and scored a 1980 hit with "Power." In 1982, Ruffin and Kendricks returned for Reunion, which also included all five of the current Tempts; a tour followed, but problems with Motown, as well as personal differences, cut Ruffin's and Kendricks' tenures short. In the years that followed, the Temptations continued touring and recording, although by the 1990s they were essentially an oldies act; only Otis Williams, who published his autobiography in 1988, remained from the original lineup. The intervening years were marked by tragedy: after touring in the late '80s with Kendricks and Edwards as a member of the "Tribute to the Temptations" package tour, Ruffin died on June 1, 1991, after overdosing on cocaine; he was 50 years old. On October 5, 1992, Kendricks died at the age of 52 of lung cancer, and on February 23, 1995, 52-year-old Franklin passed away after suffering a brain seizure. In 1998, the Temptations returned with Phoenix Rising; that same year, their story was also the subject of a well-received NBC television miniseries. Ear-Resistable followed in the spring of 2000. Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide


All I Want from You 1963 Motown
Christmas Album 1963 Gordy
Where I'm Coming From 1963
Meet the Temptations Meet the Temptations 1964 Motown
Temptations Sing Smokey Temptations Sing Smokey 1965 Motown
Temptin' Temptations Temptin' Temptations 1965 Motown
Gettin' Ready Gettin' Ready 1966 Gordy
In a Mellow Mood In a Mellow Mood 1967 Motown
Temptations Live! 1967 Motown
With a Lot o' Soul With a Lot o' Soul 1967 Motown
Live at the Copa 1968 Motown
T.C.B. 1968 Motown
Cloud Nine Cloud Nine 1969 Motown
On Broadway 1969 Motown
Puzzle People Puzzle People 1969 Motown
Temptations Show 1969 Gordy
Christmas Card Christmas Card 1970 Motown
Live at London's Talk of the Town 1970 Gordy
Psychedelic Shack Psychedelic Shack 1970 Motown
Sky's the Limit Sky's the Limit 1971 Motown
All Directions All Directions 1972 Motown
Solid Rock 1972 Motown
1990 1990 1973 Hip-o Select
Masterpiece Masterpiece 1973 IMS
House Party 1975 Gordy
Song for You Song for You 1975 Motown
Temptations Do the Temptations 1976
Wings of Love 1976 Gordy
Bare Back 1978 Atlantic
Hear to Tempt You Hear to Tempt You 1978 WEA/Warner
Give Love at Christmas Give Love at Christmas 1980 Universal Special Products
Power 1980
Temptations Temptations 1981
Reunion Reunion 1982 IMS
Back to Basics 1983
Surface Thrills 1983
Truly for You Truly for You 1984 Motown
Touch Me Touch Me 1985 Gordy
Together Again Together Again 1987 Motown
Special Special 1989 Motown
Milestone Milestone 1991 Motown
For Lovers Only For Lovers Only 1995 Motown
Phoenix Rising Phoenix Rising 1998 Motown Records
Ear-Resistable Ear-Resistable 2000 Interscope Records
Awesome Awesome 2001 Motown Records
In Japan In Japan 2004 Fontana/Hip-O Select
Legacy Legacy 2004 Universal Distribution
Back to Front Back to Front 2007 New Door Records


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