Favorites: the Temptations (2014-2017)

Reunion tour, 1982

temptations.reunion
Richard, Otis, Eddie, Melvin, Glenn, David, Dennis

The fact is that I have mentioned The Temptations at least six dozen times in this blog. And yet, I’m going to do it again, for J. Eric Smith’s favorite songs by favorite artists.

Not many groups of 60 years can claim an original member, Otis Williams! In fact, I was fascinated by how the Elgins/Primes featured Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. Otis Williams & The Siberians/The El Domingoes included Elbridge “Al” Bryant, Richard Street, Melvin Franklin, and of course, Otis.

The early Temps were Al, Eddie, Melvin, Otis, and Paul. But Al left and David Ruffin took over. The first classic lineup was formed. By 1968, David left and Dennis Edwards took his slot. At about the same time, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong started writing more “relevant” songs for the group, produced by Whitfield.

More changes

In 1971, Eddie left to pursue a solo career, replaced briefly by Ricky Owens, then Damon Harris. Paul’s addiction problem was getting the best of him, with Richard Street, one of the Siberians, singing Paul’s parts from off-stage. Then Richard replaced Paul, who died in 1973. Glenn Leonard took over for Damon in 1975. Louis Price replaced Dennis in 1977, but Dennis came back in 1980.

This set the stage for the Reunion tour, where Dennis, Otis, Glenn, Richard, and Melvin were joined by Eddie and David. I saw this performance at the Colonie Coloseum in Albany County in 1982. It was one of the two or three greatest concerts I’ve seen in my life. First, they sang together, then in groups of five. They started with the first classic lineup, Richard in for the late Paul. Then Dennis went in for David, then Glenn supplanted Eddie. They closed singing together.

I saw them about two years later in Heritage Park, a baseball stadium. It was a lesser show, even though it included the Four Tops as well. The lineup was Ali-Ollie Woodson, Ron Tyson, Otis, Richard, and Melvin. The problem in part was that the singers were so far away. The 2020 lineup is Otis, Ron, Terry Weeks, Willie Green, and a new guy, Mario Corbino.

So why The Tempations then in this past decade? I think it’s something else J. Eric Smith wrote about, comfort music. He defined it as “Music that provides consolation or feeling of well-being, typically any with a highly melodic or other pleasing content and associated with childhood or music played by one’s family.” For me, that would be Motown, roughly from 1964 to 1972, when the label moved to Los Angeles. And it was the Temptations who were most consistent, to my ear, throughout the period.

Ten Songs

I could have picked 40 more. All four of their #1 pop hits are here.

Ball of Confusion, #3 for three weeks pop, #2 for 5 weeks soul in 1970.
Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me), #1 for two weeks pop, #1 for 3 weeks soul in 1971. Eddie Kendricks’ swan song with the group.
(I Know) I’m Losing You, #8 pop, #1 for two weeks soul in 1966.
No More Water In The Well – a cut from With a Lot O’ Soul album, which is probably my favorite LP of theirs.
My Girl, #1 pop, #1 for five weeks soul in 1965. On the Temptations anthology, there’s a lovely a capella version.

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, #13 pop, #1 for eight weeks soul in 1966. Appeared on The Big Chill soundtrack in 1983.
I Wish It Would Rain, #4 pop, #1 for three weeks soul in 1968.
Papa Was A Rolling Stone, #1 pop, #5 soul in 1972. Dennis Edwards reportedly 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”
The Way You Do The Things You Do, #11 pop, #1 soul in 1964. Their first real hit, with that Smokey Robinson poetry
I Can’t Get Next To You, #1 for two weeks pop, #1 for 5 weeks soul in 1969. The best use of that five lead vocalist thing that Whitfield stole from Sly Stone

 

The last of the Bubbling Under

Alright!

Temptations circa 1965
The Temptations circa 1965 – David, Melvin, Paul, Otis, and in the middle, Eddie
We’ve come to the last of the Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. These are songs that just didn’t chart high enough to be deemed a hit. Many of them are quite familiar nonetheless, and I own all of them in some physical form.

When Something Is Wrong With My Baby – Otis (Redding) and Carla (Thomas), #109 in 1969
Crush with Eyeliner – R.E.M., #113 in 1995
Louie Louie – Paul Revere and the Raiders, #103 in 1963, the SECOND version of the song on the list
Like a Rolling Stone – Rolling Stones, #109 in 1995

Linda Ronstadt

Her box set gleaned all of these
Skylark, #101 in 1985,
Heartbeats Accelerating, #112 in 1993
A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, #101 in 1995

More Than This – Roxy Music, #102 in 1983
Watch Your Step – Carlos Santana, #107 in 1983
Put Your Lights On– Santana featuring Everlast, #118 in 1999
When I Meet Them – Seals & Crofts, #104 in 1972

Sock It To Me, Baby – Bill Minkin as Senator Bobby, #128 in 1968, unfortunately, released just before the RFK assassination
My Kind of Town – Frank Sinatra, #110 in 1964
When Somebody Loves You – Frank Sinatra, #102 in 1965
Kind Woman – Percy Sledge, #116 i 1969
Black Coffee in Bed – Squeeze, #103 in 1982

Bad Sneakers – Steely Dan, #103 in 1975
I Love My Dog – Cat Stevens, #118 in 1966
Matthew and Son – Cat Stevens, #115 in 1967
Brand New Day – Sting, #103 in 2000

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads, #103 in 1981; a live version went to #91 in 1986
Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads, #105 in 1985
Carolina in My Mind – James Taylor, #118 in 1969; reached #67 in 1970

The Temptations

Their 5-disc box set gleaned most of these
Paradise, #122 in 1962
The Girl’s Alright with Me, #102 in 1964, RB #39; B-side of I’ll Be in Trouble (#33 pop)
You’ve Got To Earn It, #123 in 1965, RB #33; B-side of Since I Lost My Baby (#17 pop)
I Truly, Truly Believe, #116 in 1968, RB #41; B-side of I Wish It Would Rain (#4 pop)

Try Jah Love – Third World, #101 in 1982
A Dime A Dozen – Carla Thomas, #114 in 1968
You Don’t Miss a Good Thing (Until It’s Gone)– Irma Thomas, #109 in 1965
I’m Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry – Irma Thomas, #130 in 1965
Something in the Air – Thunderclap Newman, #120 in 1970; hit #37 in 1969, reissued because of its inclusion in the movie The Strawberry Statement

Wordy Rappinghood – Tom Tom Club, #105 in 1982
Talk To Ya Later – The Tubes, #101 for two weeks in 1981
River Deep-Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner, #112 in 1969; original issue on a different label initially reached #88 in 1966
Love’s Gone Bad– the Underdogs, #122 in 1967

Need Love – Vanilla Fudge, #111 in 1969
Since I Fell for You – Lenny Welch, #134 in 1967; reissue of #4 1963 hit
The Kids Are Alright – The Who, #106 in 1966
MacArthur Park – Andy Williams, #102 in 1972

Night Train – Steve Winwood, #104 in 1982
I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues – Little Stevie Wonder, #101 in 1963
Generals and Majors – XTC, #104 in 1981

“Weird Al” Yankovic

I have a LOT of Al
Another One Rides the Bus, #104 in 1981
I Love Rocky Road, #106 in 1983
Headline News, #104 in 1994
Gump, #102 in 1996

Yup, that’s the last of the Bubbling Under experiment. What will be the next theme?

Dennis Edwards of the Temptations

The long instrumental intro to Papa Was a Rolling Stone made Dennis Edwards so angry that he barked out that first line.

You had to be of a certain age to remember the concern music fans had when it was announced that David Ruffin was leaving the Temptations to pursue a solo career. David was THE star, Eddie Kendricks’ occasional solos notwithstanding.

Fortunately, there was Dennis Edwards waiting in the wings. I recently heard an interview in which he said he was being paid by Motown as a stand-by. When the Contours needed a member, Dennis was recruited in 1967. The next year, he was a member of The Temptations.

Coincidentally, Norman Whitfield became the producer of the Tempts, and co-writer of their songs with Barrett Strong. The group was more like five lead singers, but still, Dennis stood out.

The box set of the Temptations is Emperors of Soul. As Dustbury knows, the first song of the renewed group, and the initial track on Disc 3, was Cloud Nine.

It ends with Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Dennis related in an interview that the long instrumental intro made him so angry that he barked out that first line, just the way Whitfield wanted.

I loved that stretch of music. I have all the albums, and I even picked up the CD Psychedelic Soul, covering that period and a little beyond, often with extended tracks, some from the albums, others previously unreleased.

Still, one of the two best concerts I ever saw was the Temptations reunion tour in 1982 at the Colonie Colosseum near Albany. Seven guys in the beginning., then the first five (Ruffin, Kendricks, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin and Richard Street, subbing for the late Paul Williams), the middle five (Edwards for Ruffin), the then current five (Glenn Leonard for Kendricks), and finally back to the seven.

Dennis Edwards was the only “replacement” Temptation to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, unless you count David Ruffin replacing Elbridge Bryant before they hit big.

Dennis died just shy of his 75th birthday.

As someone who shared his birthday wrote, “He left us way more than just alone.”

Listen to

I Can’t Get Next To You, their 2nd #1 pop single in the US (after My Girl) – Dennis in the middle

Don’t Let The Joneses Get You Down

Ball of Confusion (Dennis is 2nd solo, after Eddie)

November rambling #2: Book two of the trilogy

Albany by Roger Whitaker

1941 Dr Seuss cartoon illustrating the U.S. stance denying Jews safe haven from the Nazis.
1941 Dr Seuss cartoon illustrating the U.S. stance denying Jews safe haven from the Nazis.

From The Weekly Sift, November 21, 2016:

Like most people I know, I’ve been suffering occasional attacks of rage or depression. But it’s also oddly energizing sometimes. If you ever had fantasies of being a hero, well, gear up; the villains are taking the field. It feels like we’re in a trilogy, somewhere around the end of Book Two. Ancient evils have jumped out of history books and grainy newsreels, and are appearing on live TV. Their words and ideas are coming out of the mouths of our neighbors.

Who thought we’d have to deal with this in our lifetimes?

For some while now, everything that you can think to do about the situation is going to seem hopelessly inadequate. But it’s important that you do it anyway. That’s how it is at the end of Book Two. Continue reading “November rambling #2: Book two of the trilogy”

Otis Williams of the Temptations is 75

The group once known as the Primes did some albums with the trio formerly known as the Primettes.

David, Melvin, Paul, Otis, Eddie
David, Melvin, Paul, Otis, Eddie
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). Continue reading “Otis Williams of the Temptations is 75”