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Guide Profile: The Temptations



The "classic five" Temptations lineup


1961 (Detroit, MI)


Motown, Pop-Soul, Soul, R&B, Pop

Famous Members:

David Ruffin (b. January 18, 1941, Whynot, MS; d. June 1, 1991, Philadelphia, PA): tenor (1964-1968)
Eddie Kendricks (b. December 17, 1939, Birmingham, AL; d. October 5, 1992, Birmingham, AL): tenor (1961-1971)
Otis Williams (b. October 30, 1939, Texarkana, TX): baritone (1961-present)
Paul Williams (b. July 2, 1939, Birmingham, AL; d. August 17, 1973, Detroit, MI): baritone (1961-1971)
Melvin Franklin (b. October 12, 1942, Montgomery, AL; d. February 23, 1995, Los Angeles, CA): bass (1961-1994)

Contributions to music:

  • Defined Motown's different eras in a way no other group could
  • Gave the world tenors David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, and Dennis Edwards
  • Epitomized the class of Motown, specifically in their legendary choreography
  • With producer Norman Whitfield, took the label into a more socially conscious age
  • Have enjoyed a nearly five-decade long legacy as a recording and touring unit

Early years:

As the Primes, the original version of the group was one of the hottest tickets in pre-Motown Detroit, and the last lineup (consisting also of two members of The Distants) reformed in 1961 as the Elgins, and then, the Temptations. The Temps enjoyed some minor national exposure in the early Sixties, but it wasn't until 1964 that they began to skyrocket towards fame with the addition of David Ruffin's tenor and a song Smokey Robinson had written entitled "The Way You Do the Things You Do."


For the next three years, the group maintained a constant presence on the pop (and especially R&B) charts, fueled mainly by Smokey compositions like "My Girl" and "Get Ready." In 1967 they were brought under the wing of Motown producer Norman Whitfield, who guided them towards a harder, grittier, more socially conscious sound. Ruffin, whose personal problems were legendary, missed a concert in 1968 and was replaced by Dennis Edwards, former lead for the Contours ("First I Look At The Purse").

Later years:

Whitfield's production (typified in hits like "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "Ball of Confusion") had played itself out by 1974, and Kendricks and Harris were both three years gone, having quit and been replaced by Damon Harris and Richard Street. As disco arrived, the Temps fell out of favor, although they did reunite for a successful comeback on the R&B charts in the Eighties. The group still tours today, but Otis Williams is the only surviving original member.

Other facts:

Other members include: Dennis Edwards (b. February 3, 1943, Birmingham, AL): vocal (tenor, 1968-1977; 1979-1983; 1989-present)
Damon Harris (b. July 17, 1950, Baltimore, MD): vocal (tenor, 1971-1975)
Richard Street (b. October 5, 1942, Detroit, MI): vocal (tenor, 1971-1983)
Elbridge Bryant, Louis Price, Raymond Davis, David English, Glenn Leonard, Harry McGilberry, Ron Tyson, Ali "Ollie" Woodson, Ricky Owens, Theo Peoples, Cal Osborne, Barrington Scot Henderson, Terry Weeks


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1989)
  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Grammy Awards (1968, 1972, 2000)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (1998, 1999)

Songs, Albums, and Charts:

#1 hits:
  • "My Girl" (1965)
  • "I Can't Get Next To You" (1969)
  • "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" (1971)
  • "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" (1972)
  • "My Girl" (1965)
  • "(I Know) I'm Losing You" (1966)
  • "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (1966)
  • "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" (1966)
  • "Get Ready" (1966)
  • "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" (1968)
  • "I Wish It Would Rain" (1968)
  • "I Can't Get Next To You" (1969)
  • "Runaway Child, Running Wild" (1969)
  • "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" (1971)
  • "Masterpiece" (1973)
  • "Let Your Hair Down" (1974)
  • "Happy People" (1975)
  • "Shakey Ground" (1975)
Top 10 hits:
  • "(I Know) I'm Losing You" (1966)
  • "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" (1966)
  • "All I Need" (1967)
  • "You're My Everything" (1967)
  • "I Wish It Would Rain" (1968)
  • "Cloud Nine" (1969)
  • "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (1969)
  • "Runaway Child, Running Wild" (1969)
  • "Silent Night" (1969)
  • "Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today)" (1970)
  • "Psychedelic Shack" (1970)
  • "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1971)
  • "Masterpiece" (1973)
  • "It's Growing" (1965)
  • "My Baby" (1965)
  • "Since I Lost My Baby" (1965)
  • "(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It's You That I Need" (1967)
  • "All I Need" (1967)
  • "You're My Everything" (1967)
  • "Cloud Nine" (1968)
  • "Please Return Your Love To Me" (1968)
  • "Don't Let The Joneses Get You Down" (1969)
  • "I'll Try Something New" (1969)
  • "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (1969)
  • "Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today)" (1970)
  • "Hum And Dance Along" (1970)
  • "Psychedelic Shack" (1970)
  • "Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite The World)" (1970)
    fourteen more
Other important recordings: "The Way You Do The Things You Do," "Don't Look Back," "It's Summer," "Mother Nature," "Power"
Covered by: The Rolling Stones, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Love and Rockets, UB40, Prince Buster, Otis Redding, Anthrax, Ella Fitzgerald, Prince, Fishbone, Al Green, Rod Stewart, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Proclaimers, Booker T. & The MG's, Percy Sledge, U2, Was (Not Was), Phoebe Snow, Annie Lennox, Luther Vandross, Rare Earth
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