There are lots of groups out there that have the name of an old-time group, but with Otis Williams in the Temptations, the link to the original group is sustained.
“Williams was born Otis Miles, Jr. in Texarkana, Texas to Otis Miles and Hazel Louise Williams… While he was still a toddler, his mother married and moved to Detroit, Michigan, leaving the younger Otis Miles to be raised by both of his grandmothers in Texarkana. Hazel Williams moved her son to Detroit when he was ten years old, where he lived with his mother and his stepfather.”
The history of The Temptations is way too complicated to go through here, but Otis was in several groups, honing his craft. The original lineup of group called The Temptations was Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Elbridge “Al” Bryant, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams (no relation). But “Al Bryant had grown frustrated with the group’s lack of success and became restless and uncooperative, preferring the mundane routine of his day job as a milkman over the rigors of rehearsal and performing.” He was replaced by David Ruffin who had already “joined the group onstage and impressed the group with his vocal talent and dancing skills.”
The group then had several hits, most notably My Girl, but eventually Ruffin left the group. He was replaced by Dennis Edwards, who was the lead vocal in the wah-wah period of the late producer/songwriter Norman Whitfield. It is Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, David Ruffin, and Dennis Edwards who are represented in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when the group was inducted way back in 1989.
These are some songs I was feeling when I made the list. I could easily switch out half of them for others. The top 7, in some order, would stay.
24. It’s Summer (B-side of Ball of Confusion) – this is the version on the 1970 album Psychedelic Shack, NOT the single that appears on Solid Rock in 1972. It’s corny, but I like hearing Melvin’s voice.
23. Love Can Be Anything (Can’t Nothing Be Love But Love) – this song, with thin lyrics, is more a feel. Appears on Sky’s the Limit in 1971
22. Please Return Your Love to Me, #26 pop, #4 soul in 1968 – Eddie on lead vocal, but it’s the harmonies I love
21. Standing at the Top, #66 pop, #6 soul in 1982. From that great reunion tour when Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin briefly return to join Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Dennis Edwards, Richard Street, and Glenn Leonard. This song also features Rick James.
20. Try It Baby – the group once known as the Primes did some albums with the trio formerly known as the Primettes. This is from the first one, Diana Ross and the Supremes Join the Temptations from 1968
19. Beauty’s Only Skin Deep, #3 pop, #1 for five weeks soul in 1966. Ain’t it the truth?
18. Get Ready, #29 pop, #1 soul in 1966. Ofttimes covered, including by the Motown group Rare Earth
17. War – from the Psychedelic Shack album. From memory: Berry Gordy didn’t want the Temps to get any pushback for releasing this as a single, but he let the less prominent Edwin Starr to put it out, and, of course, it was massively successful
16. The Girl’s Alright with Me #102 pop, #39 soul in 1964 – this is the B-side of I’ll Be in Trouble, so a respectable showing
15. (Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need, #14 pop, #3 for two weeks soul in 1967 – there’s an album called With a Lot O’ Soul, a transition from the mostly Smokey Robinson production, to the Norman Whitfield period that’s arguably my favorite LP of the group
14. Don’t Look Back, #83 pop, #15 soul in 1966
13. I’ll Be in Trouble, #33 pop, #22 soul in 1964
12. Don’t Let the Joneses Get You Down, #20 pop, #2 soul in 1969 – a great attribute of the Whitfield period was shared lead vocals
11. Psychedelic Shack, #7 pop, #2 for 3 weeks soul in 1970 – this must be from the album cut, because it starts off with same party noise previously used in I Can’t Get Next To You
10. Ball of Confusion, #3 for three weeks pop, #2 for 5 weeks soul in 1970. “The Beatles’ new records a gas” just as the Fab Four was breaking up
9. Just My Imagination, #1 for two weeks pop, #1 for 3 weeks soul in 1971 – pretty much Eddie Kendricks’ swan song
8. (I Know) I’m Losing You, #8 pop, #1 for two weeks soul in 1966
7. No More Water In The Well – another cut from With a Lot O’ Soul
6. My Girl #1 pop, #1 for five weeks soul in 1965. On the Temptations anthology, there’s an a capella version that’s quite fine
5. Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, #13 pop, #1 for eight weeks soul – appeared on The Big Chill soundtrack in 1983
4. I Wish It Would Rain, #4 pop, #1 for three weeks soul in 1968. Sometimes I wish it would…
3. Papa Was A Rolling Stone, #1 pop, #5 soul in 1972 – as I recall, Dennis Edwards was getting really irritable in the studio about the length of the intro before he got to sing, which may have been the producer’s intent, to get the snarl in “It was the third of September…”
2. The Way You Do The Things You Do, #11 pop, #1 soul – their first real hit, with that Smokey Robinson poetry
1. I Can’t Get Next To You, #1 for two weeks pop, #1 for 5 weeks soul. The best use of that five lead vocalist thing that Whitfield stole from Sly Stone
The other members – Ron Tyson (thick mustache), Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon, Bruce Williamson