SoulTracks 3 Minute Update: The Temptations

Three Minute Update is the newest SoulTracks feature. It is designed to give classic soul fans a chance to catch up with what’s going on with their favorite soul music artists of the 60s, 70s and 80s. All in three minutes. We begin our series with a 3 minute update on: The Temptations. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section and hit us up with your suggestions of future 3 Minute Updates by using the "Contact Us" button below.

The Temptations are the most important soul group of the last 60 years, and they’re still going strong. In the 1960s they redefined the soul group, from the impeccable look they brought to the stage, to their focus on group choreography, to, most importantly, the immediately identifiable 5-part group harmony they mastered.  Every major soul group since 1965 owes a huge debt to the Temptations, and most acknowledge it.

Three Minute Update is the newest SoulTracks feature. It is designed to give classic soul fans a chance to catch up with what’s going on with their favorite soul music artists of the 60s, 70s and 80s. All in three minutes. We begin our series with a 3 minute update on: The Temptations. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section and hit us up with your suggestions of future 3 Minute Updates by using the "Contact Us" button below.

The Temptations are the most important soul group of the last 60 years, and they’re still going strong. In the 1960s they redefined the soul group, from the impeccable look they brought to the stage, to their focus on group choreography, to, most importantly, the immediately identifiable 5-part group harmony they mastered.  Every major soul group since 1965 owes a huge debt to the Temptations, and most acknowledge it.

All that said, its been tough to keep track of the members of the Temptations unless you have a scorecard (by the way, here’s our scorecard). There have been around 25 Temptations,  resulting in lawsuits, hard feelings, and a plethora of Temptations knock-off groups over the years led by former members.

Formed in Detroit in the early 60s from two rival groups, the Temptations worked the local talent shows with a lineup of Eldridge Bryant, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks and the group's true vocal anchor, bass singer Melvin Franklin.  By the time they landed at Motown with their first hit in 1964, Smokey Robinson's "The Way You Do The Things You Do," Bryant had been replaced by David Ruffin, and the most famous version of the group was in place.  Led by Ruffin's gruff, passionate baritone and Kendricks' soaring falsetto, the group scored one classic hit after another over the next several years, including "My Girl," "It's Growing" and "Since I Lost My Baby."  

Internal friction and growing egotism by Ruffin (including a desire for top billing) led to his firing and replacement by Dennis Edwards, who led the group through another series of funkier, Sly Stone-influenced hits produced by Norman Whitfield.  "Cloud 9," "Runaway Child" and "Can't Get Next To You" continued the group's dominance of the pop and soul charts. 

The 1972 departure by Kendricks and the death of Paul Williams started a series of periodic changes in the group’s lineup that continue to this day. Great singers such as Damon Harris, Richard Streets, Ali Woodson, Glenn Leonard, GC Cameron and more have donned the Temptations’ tuxedos over the years, and, while recording success has been up-and-down since the 80s, the group has consistently been a concert draw around the world.

The Temptations story has been a hit in print (Otis Williams’ autobiography), on television (the smash 1998 television miniseries), and more recently on stage (the Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The LIfe and Times of the Temptations). And most recently, the Tempts scored a hit in 2018 with the very well received album, All The Time, which included both new material and choice covers.

The Temptations now consist of the lone surviving original member, Otis Williams, along with falsetto lead Ron Tyson (a nearly 40 year member), 90s entrant Terry Weeks, bass singer Willie Green, and new lead vocalist Mario Corbino, who joined in 2020. The current version of the group showed their stuff on national television July 4, 2020, as they performed a medley of hits on A Capitol Fourth.

The Temptations are now celebrating their 60th anniversary with an international tour and a video series. And as we write this, they're in the studio working on their first studio album with the current lineup. Otis Williams says, "Now, to be the last one standing from the classic lineups can be hard sometimes, but I know God left me here for a reason, and that was to continue to share with new generations of fans, the great music that we started back in that two-story house in Detroit, known as Hitsville USA." 

By Chris Rizik

 

Leave a comment!