Van Cliburn, and the Temptations

I saw the Temptations perform live twice.

When I was growing up, pianist Van Cliburn was the most famous classical musician in the United States. He had an album sell a million copies, unheard of in the genre. It was a function, in part, of the fact that when he won a prestigious competition in the Soviet Union, he was considered a Cold Warrior.

Only problem, as Dustbury noted, is that Cliburn never saw himself that way; he just loved playing the music. Listen to the link Jaquandor provided, and read the sweet story, while you’re at it.
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I was a HUGE fan of the singing group The Temptations from roughly 1964 to 1984; I could even tell you roughly when members came and went. Damon Harris (upper right) came into the group in 1971 to be the high-range vocalist after Eddie Kendrick left for a solo career; he left in 1975, having sung on Papa Was a Rolling Stone. He was only 62 when he died, succumbing to prostate cancer, which, not incidentally, is what killed my father.

Richard Street (upper left), though, was an even more vital part of the Temps history. He was part of The Distants back in the late 1950s with future Temptations Otis Williams (the sole surviving original member of the Temps; lower left) and Melvin Franklin (lower middle). Paul Williams (no relation to Otis) started having problems with alcoholism and depression. “By 1969, Richard Street… was touring with the group as a backup replacement for [Paul] Williams. For most shows, save for his solo numbers, Williams would dance and lip-sync onstage to parts sung live by Street into an offstage mic behind a curtain. At other shows, and during most of the second half of 1970, Street substituted for Williams onstage.” When Paul Williams left the group, Street replaced him in 1971 and stayed until 1992.

I saw the Temptations perform live twice, c 1982 during the reunion tour when Kendrick and David Ruffin temporarily rejoined the group, which was one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen; and c 1984, on a double bill with the Four Tops, a lesser event because it was at a baseball field, Heritage Park just outside Albany. Of course, Street was a participant in both shows. In the former show, when four of the original Temps did some of their old hits, it was Street once again filling in for the late Paul Williams. BTW, that’s Dennis Edwards pictured in the lower right; he had replaced Ruffin, and is still alive.

Richard Street died at the age of 70.
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Does Petula Clark know about Petula Lark? New album by the 80-year-old Clark, including a cover of her massive hit Downtown.
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Ken Levine wrote about the 30th anniversary of the last episode of the TV show MASH. I was a huge fan of the show from about midway through the first season until partway through the eighth. I’ve long thought, though, that they should have quit when Radar left in the eighth year. That bloated 2.5-hour program, still the TV finale with the highest ratings, I pretty much hated. I think MAD magazine nailed it.
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The YouTube video for Tim O’Toole’s book The American Pope.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on “Van Cliburn, and the Temptations”

  1. The title, of course, is an astute example of When to Use a Comma; otherwise, it’s “Van Cliburn and the Temptations,” which might have been viewed as a companion group to Diana Ross and the Supremes.

  2. Roger, yes, yes, and yes. I grew up with the Temps, Smokey, the Four Tops, the Supremes… and Dusty Springfield, queen of blue-eyed soul.

    MASH. That final episode was excruciatingly long and boring and ALL ABOUT how DEEP Hawkeye was. Yuck. His last chance to try something heavy, and he was so in bed with Gelbart by this time that he could do anything he wanted.

    About Van Cliburn: His obituary failed to mention he was a gay man. He was out “forever,” and his church (a member of the Southern Baptist Convention) was actually BOUNCED because of their “tolerance” of LGBT people. Of course, that is the very reason Jimmy Carter famously and publicly QUIT the Southern Baptist Convention a week or so ago. He said that churches who do not follow Jesus’ call for unconditional love are not churches he will attend, and hooray on him for saying it frankly.

    Van and the Temps? That would have been a helluva thing!! Peace, Amy

  3. Amy – always lovely to hear from you. I used to watch MASH twice, once originally and again in the rerun. By season 9, I’d given that up; one time only.

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