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.

You’re a hobbit with all of Mordor in front of you, or an Ewok facing a galactic empire. The idea that you’re going to turn things around is laughable. And a lot of the stuff that people think to do will come to nothing, just like it seems. But some of it won’t, and if anybody can say for sure which is which, I haven’t met them yet.

So anyway, today I plan to type a bunch of words onto a screen. It’s what I can think to do. You think that seems hopelessly inadequate? Tell me about it.

[I do SO relate!]

Also from the Weekly Sift: The Trump Administration: What I’m watching for and Should I Have White Pride?

Donald Trump and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, explained

Farewell, America

Trump summons a monster he can’t control – “White supremacists are acting as if they’ve hit the swastika sweepstakes.” cf Why I Left White Nationalism

“Sore winner” syndrome: Why are Donald Trump’s supporters still so angry?

Through a Looking Glass, Darkly

Donald Trump — the Boy King

America first, Trump second

Donald Trump: Anyone who burns American flag should be jailed or lose citizenship

Welcome to the Trump kleptocracy, plus kakistocracy

Potential Conflicts Around the Globe for Trump, the Businessman President

More Weekly Sift, especially the section on corruption

An ethical double standard for Trump — and the GOP?

Professor predicts impeachment

Mike Pence’s top seven most homophobic moments (out of many)

79-Year-Old Trump Supporter Arrested for Allegedly Vandalizing Children’s Mural

Confederate States of America currency?

Rapp On This: As a Matter of Fact, the Sky Is Falling

TV News and Its Long Dark Night of the Soul, though, finally, The Associated Press has defined ‘alt-right’

djt-bway

Atlético Nacional, the Colombian team, asks that its opponent, Chapecoense of Brazil, be awarded the Copa Sudamericana soccer tournament title, after the plane crash which killed nearly all of Chapecoense’s players and coaches

The Kind of Christian I Refuse To Be

Aboard an overloaded ship carrying more than 500 refugees, a young woman becomes an unlikely hero

That disruption at a performance of Hamilton

The Bubble – SNL

They may well be sincere in what they say but they may just be buttering you up

Fidel Castro dead at 90;

Florence Henderson passed away – I never saw a single episode of the Brady Bunch during its original run but caught it in syndication occasionally. She played Florence Henderson at least a couple of times in later shows, but my favorite role of hers was as the wife in Amish Paradise by Weird Al.

The GREAT character Fritz Weaver died at the age of 90. Some know him for a few appearances in the original Twilight Zone, but he had a massive body of work

I know I liked Harris on Barney Miller because I didn’t often see the black intellectual on TV – RIP, Ron Glass

American comedy vs. British comedy

Internet Wading – Looking and listening

An interesting blog on family photo copyrights

Why can’t you go out and buy cashews in the shell?

Two Point Conversion Chart (football)

8 Memorable Comics Screw-Ups

Now I Know: The Spaceship Graveyard and A Def Vacation

“Hipster” nativity scene for the holidays

The Strange History of Microfilm, Which Will Be With Us for Centuries

Accidentally Closing Browser Window With 23 Tabs Open Presents Rare Chance At New Life

Music

Beethoven’s 7th

Tchaikovsky’s “fantasy overture” Romeo and Juliet

100 Days, 100 Nights – Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Albany songs, plus Albany by Roger Whitaker, lyrics here

Elvis at the Wheel

Spirit of the ’60s albums

LOVER COME BACK TO ME – The Peanuts

The Leonard Cohen song that saved Roger Ebert’s life

A Temptations musical?

 

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 the 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 feeling. 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 put it out, and, of course, it was massively successful

Richard, Otis, Eddie, Melvin, Glenn, David, Dennis
Richard, Otis, Eddie, Melvin, Glenn, David, Dennis

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 the 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 were 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

Otis Williams in the center;
Otis Williams in the center

The other members – Ron Tyson (thick mustache), Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon, Bruce Williamson