We received this article today from Ron Brewington of the Motown Alumni Association (MAA). It is an excellent tribute by Larry Buford to Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations, who died 20 years ago this month.
It was January 1992, when I got the call from Tunis Wilson, who had been the road manager for the former trio of lead singers of The Temptations – David Ruffin (who had died just seven months prior), Eddie Kendricks, and Dennis Edwards. He said Eddie wanted me to come down to a location in the South Bay of California to talk about some songs I had written. This would not be the first time we’d met. Back in the ‘70’s he and Ruffin had become aware of my songwriting abilities. After Ruffin died I met with Eddie where he was performing at The Strand in Redondo Beach and gave him a copy of several of my songs, so I was awaiting his call.
It was a great meeting even though I could see that Eddie was pretty exhausted. We reminisced, and played some old Temptations songs. He was surprised that I really loved his performance on the Smokey Robinson tune “You’re Not An Ordinary Girl” which was the ‘B’ side of “Beauty’s Only Skin Deep.” We talked about old friends, and some of the hang-outs in Detroit. We high-fived, joked – laughed at some things, cussed about some others.
I remember telling Eddie that he and all his other Motown co-horts were so busy making history that they did not really fully grasp the impact they’d made. I promised him I would do whatever I could to try and let the world know their sacrifices and hard work, and the struggles they went through to bring us their wonderful music…how it encouraged and elevated us. He thanked me for that.
As we were listening to my songs he nodded and gave his feedback – told me which ones he liked – then when the tribute song I wrote for Ruffin called “Soul Man (A Song For David)” came on, he really responded to it and said he wanted to record it! He even autographed the lyric sheet of the song which I still have. Sadly, I was told by Wilson he had been working on the song but had not finished it at the time of his death several months later.
Eddie’s voice came on the national scene as a lead singer with “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” What many fans don’t know is that on another Smokey Robinson-penned tune “Two Lovers” by Mary Wells, it was Eddie harmonizing with her on the chorus (listen to it again with new ears). Eddie went on to record “Girl Why You Wanna Make Me Blue,” “The Girl’s Alright With Me,” “What Love Has Joined Together,” “Get Ready,” “Just My Imagination,” and many, many other hits with The Temptations. His duet with Ruffin on “You’re My Everything” is classic! And who can forget his timeless inimitable version of “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It’s been reported that during one period, Eddie was the top grossing male solo artist on the Motown roster.
Afterwards, he had a stream of hits as a soloist with “Can I,” “Keep On Truckin’,” “Boogie Down,” “Happy,” and so many others. One song he recorded that I love so much – I first heard it in October 1974 – is “Tell Her Love Has Felt The Need.” My Aunt Jacqui brought the song over to our house on her birthday October 5th and played it for us. It was a rainy October night there in Detroit, and Eddie’s voice…his emotion in that song will live on in my mind forever.
Eddie died October 5th 1992. God bless him, and may his music live forever.