Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Friday, 16 August 2013
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN VOCAL GROUP "THE TEMPTATIONS " A MOTOWN RECORDS AND THERE DANCING , FLASHY WARDROBE AND DISTINCT HARMONIES :
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY The Temptations are an American vocal group known for their success with Motown Records during the 1960s and 1970s. Known for their choreography, distinct harmonies, and flashy wardrobe, the group has been said to be as influential to R&B and soul as The Beatles are to pop and rock.
Known to always feature at least five male vocalists and dancers, the group formed in 1960 in Detroit, Michigan under the name The Elgins. Having sold tens of millions of albums, the Temptations are one of the most successful groups in music history. As of 2013, the Temptations continue to perform and record for Universal Music Group with its one living original member, Otis Williams, still in its lineup.
The original founding members of the group were Otis Williams, Elbridge "Al" Bryant, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams. The members were from two former rival vocal groups, the Distance
and the Primes. In 1964, Bryant was replaced by David Ruffin. Four years later, Ruffin was replaced by Dennis Edwards. In 1971, the lineup changed again when Kendricks and Paul Williams were replaced by Ricky Owens and Richard Street. The former replacement was soon replaced by Damon Harris. Like its "sister" group, The Supremes, the Temptations' lineup has changed frequently over the years.
Over the course of their career, the Temptations have released four Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles and fourteen R&B number-one singles. Their material earned them three Grammy Awards. The Temptations was the first Motown recording act to win a Grammy Award and in 2013 the group received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Six of the Temptations (Edwards, Franklin, Kendricks, Ruffin, Otis Williams and Paul Williams) were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Three classic Temptations songs, "My Girl", "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)", and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone", are among The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The Temptations were also ranked at #68 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of all time.
Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams began singing together in church as children. By their teenage years, they formed a doo-wop quartet in 1955 with two other friends, Kell Osborne and Wiley Waller, naming themselves the Cavaliers. After Waller left the group in 1957, the remaining trio left Birmingham to break into the music business. The group settled at Detroit where they changed their name to the Primes under the direction of Milton Jenkins. The Primes soon became well known around the Detroit area for their meticulous performances. Jenkins later created the "sister group", The Primettes, later known as The Supremes. Kendricks was already seen as a "matinee idol" in the Detroit area while Williams was well received for his baritone vocals.Texas teenager Otis Williams moved to Detroit as a youngster to be with his mother. By 1958, Williams was the leader of a vocal group named Otis Williams and the Siberians. The group included best friend Elbridge "Al" Bryant, James "Pee-Wee" Crawford, Vernard Plain and Arthur Walton. The group recorded a song, "Pecos Kid" for a label run by radio deejay Senator Bristol Bryant. Shortly after its release, the group changed its name to The El Domingoes. Following this, Montgomery native Melvin Franklin replaced Arthur Walton as bass vocalist and Franklin's cousin, Detroit-born Richard Street, replaced Vernard Plain as lead singer. Signing with Johnnie Mae Matthews' Northern Records, the group had their name changed again to The Distants.
The group recorded two Northern singles including "Come On" (1959) and "Alright" (1960). Between these releases, Albert "Mooch" Harrell replaced Pee-Wee Crawford. "Come On" became a local hit and the Warwick Records label picked the record up for national distrib Following the release of "Alright", Matthews appointed Williams the group leader, and the group's name was changed to Otis Williams & The Distance. During this period, both the Primes and Distances were influenced by other vocal groups including The Miracles. Other inspirations included the Cadillacs, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, The Drifters, and The Isley Brothers. Though "Come On" was a local hit in the Detroit area, the Distance never saw much record sales and "Alright" wasn't as successful. After receiving an offer from Berry Gordy to sign with Motown Records, the Distants got out of their contract with Northern Records. However, Mooch Harrell and Richard Street shortly departed from the group and the remaining members lost use of the Distances name. Richard Street later formed another Distants group who recorded for the Thelma label in the early 1960s.
The original name for the new lineup of Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Elbridge "Al" Bryant, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams was the Elgins. Under that name, the group auditioned for Motown in March 1961. Already impressed with some of the members after hearing session work, Berry Gordy agreed to sign the group to the Motown imprint, Miracle. However, before signing, Gordy discovered another group was using the name of Elgins. The group began tossing about ideas for a new name on the steps of the Hitsville U.S.A. studio. On a suggestion from Miracle Records employee Billy Mitchell, songwriter Mickey Stevenson, and group members Otis Williams and Paul Williams, The Temptations became the group's new moniker. The "Elgins" name would re-surface at Motown in 1965, when Gordy renamed a quartet called The Downbeats as The Elgins.Members of the Distants were acquainted with the Primes as both groups participated in the same talent shows and performed at the same public venues. Friendly rivals, the Primes were considered to be the more polished and vocally stronger group of the two. The Primes disbanded in 1960 after Kell Osborne moved to California. Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams returned to Alabama following the band's dissolution. While visiting relatives in Detroit, Kendricks called Otis Williams who, desperately needing two more members for an audition for Gordy's label, offered Kendricks a lead singer place in his new group. Kendricks agreed on the condition he bring Paul Williams with him. Otis Williams happily agreed and Kendricks and Paul Williams moved back to Detroit to join the new group.
The Temptations' first two singles, "Oh Mother of Mine" and "Check Yourself", with Paul Williams on lead, were released on Miracle before Gordy closed the label down and reassigned the band to his latest imprint, Gordy Records. On the Gordy imprint, Eddie Kendricks sang lead on the Temptations' first charted single, "Dream Come True", which peaked at #22 on the R&B chart in 1962. Later that year, the Temptations began touring as part of the Motortown Revue. The group would issue eight recordings between 1961 and 1963 without much success. Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks split the leads during this early period, with Al Bryant, Otis Williams, and Melvin Franklin occasionally singing lead, as they would on a song titled "Isn't She Pretty". For a brief time, the group almost had their name changed to The Pirates, and recorded the songs "Mind Over Matter" and "I'll Love You Till I Die" under that name. Eventually the label and the group decided against it. One hit song, "Do You Love Me", was originally set to be recorded by the Temptations. When he couldn't get a hold of the group, Gordy produced a version for The Contours. In 1963, the Temptations began working with Smokey Robinson as producer and writer. Robinson's first work with the group was the Paul Williams-led "I Want a Love I Can See". While the song failed to chart, it did eventually become a popular live performance spot for the group and particularly for Paul Williams in general. Due to their lack of hits, the group was given the nickname, "The Hitless Temptations".
During this time, David Ruffin began following the group around as he aspired to join the group. During a local Detroit performance, Ruffin joined the group onstage and impressed the group with his vocal talent and dancing skills. Following that same time, 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. After a heated quarrel with Paul and hitting him in the head with a beer bottle following a disastrous performance at the 1963 Motown company Christmas/New Years Eve party, Bryant was summarily fired from the group. As a result, David Ruffin was brought in as his replacement in January 1964. Though Ruffin's brother Jimmy was also considered for the slot, David was selected following his performance with them in 1963. Bryant continued to perform in a number of other local groups, and died at the age of 36 in Flagler County, Florida of liver cirrhosis on October 26, 1975.
In January 1964, Smokey Robinson and Miracles bandmate Bobby Rogers co-wrote and produced "The Way You Do the Things You Do" with Eddie Kendricks on lead and the single became the Temptations' first Top 20 hit that April.
Shortly afterward, "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and several pre-David Ruffin singles were compiled into the group's first album, Meet The Temptations, released in early 1964. The next two Temptations singles in 1964, "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" along with "I'll Be in Trouble" and its B-side "The Girl's Alright With Me", all featured Kendricks on lead. However, producer Smokey Robinson saw potential in the "mellow" yet "gruff" voice of David Ruffin, and thought that if he could write the perfect song for his lead, then the group could have a Top 10 hit.
While traveling as part of Motown's Motortown Revue later that year, Robinson and fellow Miracles member Ronnie White wrote "My Girl", which the Temptations recorded in the fall of 1964 with Ruffin singing his first lead vocal for the group. Released as a single on December 21, 1964, the song became the Temptations' first number-one pop hit in March 1965, and is their signature song to this day.
After the success of "My Girl", Ruffin sang lead on the next three singles: "It's Growing", "Since I Lost My Baby", and "My Baby", all of which made it to the Top 20 in 1965. The B-side to "My Baby", "Don’t Look Back", featured a stirring lead from Paul Williams, and was a sleeper hit on the R&B charts and a standard for vocal group playlists.
Norman Whitfield had requested the opportunity to write for the group and in 1966, Berry Gordy promised him that if Robinson's "Get Ready", with Eddie Kendricks on lead, failed to chart in the Top 20, Whitfield would be allowed to produce the next song. "Get Ready" subsequently missed its mark, and Gordy issued the Whitfield-produced "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", with David Ruffin on lead, as the next single. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" outperformed "Get Ready" on the Billboard charts, and Whitfield became the Temptations' new main producer. He began pulling the group away from the ballad-based productions espoused by Robinson, toward a harder-edged and brass-heavy soul sound reminiscent of James Brown.
Nearly all of the singles produced by Whitfield prior to 1968 featured David Ruffin on lead, including the R&B number-one/pop Top 10 hits "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep", "(I Know) I'm Losing You"and the early 1967 hit "(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It's You That I Need". Other important singles from this period include "All I Need", produced by Frank Wilson, a Whitfield protégé, and the "You're My Everything", on which Kendricks and Ruffin share lead. Studio albums during the "Classic Five" period apart from Meet The Temptations include The Temptations Sing Smokey (1965),The Temptin' Temptations (1965), Gettin' Ready (1966), The Temptations with a Lot o' Soul (1967), and The Temptations Wish It Would Rain (1968).
During this period, the various songwriting partners of Norman Whitfield included Roger Penzabene, Edward Holland, Jr., and Temptations road show manager and guitarist Cornelius Grant. Subsequently, Barrett Strong, who sang the very first hit at Motown in 1959, "Money (That's What I Want)", began working with Whitfield and Penzabene on Temptations material after Eddie Holland left Motown with the rest of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting/production team in 1967. Two of the Whitfield-Strong-Penzabene collaborations, "I Wish It Would Rain" and "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)", became hits in early 1968 after the untimely suicide of Roger Penzabene in December 1967. Subsequently, Barrett Strong became the sole collaborator of Norman Whitfield.
From early 1964 to mid 1968, the Temptations went from unknown hopefuls to international stars and as a result, appeared frequently on television shows such as American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Hollywood Palace. At the same time, the group began to achieve a crossover success, catering to middle America with a pop standards album (The Temptations in a Mellow Mood, 1967), the success of which resulted in performances at the famous Copacabana in New York City along with dates at other similar supper clubs. Outside of music, the Temptations were made honorary members of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
By 1967, David Ruffin had begun demanding special treatment as lead singer, riding to and from gigs in a private mink-lined limousine with his then-girlfriend, Motown singer Tammi Terrell, instead of in the group limousine used by the other four Temptations. The other members slowly became irritated and annoyed with Ruffin's behavior. Following Motown's decision to rechristen The Supremes as Diana Ross & the Supremes, Ruffin felt entitled to the same treatment and demanded that his group be renamed as well, to David Ruffin & the Temptations. Ruffin was also causing friction with Berry Gordy by demanding an accounting of the group's earnings.
Some of this behavior was attributed to the fact that by this time Ruffin had begun using cocaine regularly, building further tension within the group and causing him to miss a number of group meetings, rehearsals, and concerts. There was a general consensus among the rest of the group that Ruffin needed to be replaced. When Ruffin missed a June 1968 engagement at a Cleveland supper club in order to attend a show by his new girlfriend Barbara Gail Martin (daughter of Dean Martin), it was decided that he had crossed the line. The other four Temptations drew up legal documentation, officially firing Ruffin from the group on June 27, 1968. The next day, Dennis Edwards, a singer formerly of the Contours that Eddie Kendricks and Otis Williams already had pegged as a potential Ruffin replacement, was hired to take Ruffin's place.
Edwards and Ruffin were good friends, and at first, Ruffin went along with the changing of the guard and encouraged Edwards. However, at Edwards' official debut with the Temptations in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on July 7, Ruffin came to the show and jumped onstage, taking the microphone from Edwards, singing lead on "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", and disappearing as quickly as he'd appeared. Ruffin repeated this stunt several times throughout the group's July tour run. Despite the group hiring extra security to keep Ruffin out, he continued to find ways to sneak into the venue and jump onstage when the group performed one of the songs he once sung lead on.
In a story recounted several times by Dennis Edwards, though refuted by Otis Williams and Temptations road manager Don Foster, after several of these stunts, the positive audience reactions and a remorseful Ruffin's pleas to be let back into the act convinced the other Temptations to do so. Otis Williams informed the then still-new Edwards that the group would lay him off and rehire Ruffin while in Gaithersburg, Maryland. However, when Ruffin failed to show up on time for the next night for his "return" engagement, Edwards was kept on, and the prospect of rehiring Ruffin ceased to be entertained.
After Gaithersburg, Ruffin stopped attempting to bogart the Temptations' concerts and instead turned his attention to the Motown offices back in Detroit. He sued Motown in October 1968, seeking a release from the label, but Motown countersued to keep the singer from leaving and the case was eventually settled out of court. The settlement required Ruffin to remain with Motown as a solo artist to finish out his initial contract.
Edwards' first album with the Temptations was Live at the Copa, recorded at the group's return to the Copacabana nightclub. The year 1968 also saw the debut of the first of a number of collaborations for the Temptations with Diana Ross & the Supremes. The results included two studio albums: 1968's Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations, which featured Edwards's first studio recordings with the group and the number-two hit single "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me"; and Together. There was also a joint tour and two NBC television specials, TCB (aired December 9, 1968) and G.I.T. on Broadway (aired November 12, 1969).
The addition of Dennis Edwards to the Temptations coincided with the adoption of a new sound for the group by producer Norman Whitfield, and in the fall of 1968, Whitfield began producing psychedelic-based material for the Temptations, derived primarily from the sound of funk band Sly & the Family Stone. This new style, which debuted with the Top 10 hit single "Cloud Nine" in October 1968, was a marked departure from the David Ruffin-era ballads. The instrumentation was funkier, the beat was hard-driving, and all five Temptations traded lead vocals, similar to Sly & the Family Stone. "Cloud Nine", the centerpiece of the group's landmark Cloud Nine LP, was a Top 10 hit and won Motown its first Grammy Award, for Best R&B Vocal Group Performance of 1969.
The blending of the Motown sound and psychedelic rock sound resulted in a new subgenre of music called "psychedelic soul", also evident in the work of Diana Ross and the Supremes ("Reflections", "Love Child"), Marvin Gaye's version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", and the music of The 5th Dimension, The Undisputed Truth, and The Friends of Distinction. More Temptations psychedelic soul singles would follow in 1969 and 1970, among them "Runaway Child, Running Wild" (a number-one R&B hit), "I Can't Get Next to You" (a number-one pop hit), "Psychedelic Shack", and "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)", but the formula began to wear thin when "Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World)", only went to #33 Pop in the fall of 1970. The group's other important albums from this period included Puzzle People (1969) and Psychedelic Shack (1970). Psychedelic Shack includes the original version of "War", later made famous by Edwin Starr.
Paul Williams, who suffered from sickle-cell disease, fell into depression because of the stress of touring and personal issues. By the late 1960s, he had developed a serious case of alcoholism. As his physical and mental health began to decline sharply, it made performing increasingly difficult. Williams began traveling with oxygen tanks, and the other four Temptations made valiant efforts to raid and drain his alcohol stashes.
By 1969, Richard Street, lead singer of Motown act The Monitors and a former Distant, was touring with the group as a backup replacement for Williams. For most shows, save for his solo numbers, Williams would dance and lip-sync onstage to parts sung live by Street into an offstage mic behind a curtain. At other shows, and during most of the second half of 1970, Street substituted for Williams onstage.
Eddie Kendricks became detached from the group after David Ruffin's firing and as the health of Paul Williams continued to fail. In addition, Kendricks preferred the ballad material from the earlier days and was uncomfortable with the psychedelic soul material the group was now performing. Kendricks rekindled his friendship with Ruffin, who persuaded him to go solo. Kendricks no longer felt he had a say in Otis Williams's handling of the group and was also convinced Motown's handling of the Temptations' finances was cheating the group out of money
Kendricks lobbied strongly in 1970 to have the Temptations go on "strike" - no performances, no recordings - until Berry Gordy and the Motown staff would be willing to go over all group finances with independent accountants. Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin strongly opposed this idea, and regular group in-fighting between Kendricks, Otis Williams, and Franklin grew from this disagreement. After a November 1970 Copacabana engagement, one final confrontation between the three caused Kendricks to walk out in-between shows and not return. Both Kendricks and Williams then agreed that Kendricks would be leaving the group. Kendricks later stated that he actually considered leaving as early as 1965, but remained with the Temptations and unsuccessfully attempted to get permission to record a solo album without leaving the group.
Before Kendricks officially left the Temptations, he and Paul Williams recorded the lead vocals for "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)", a ballad that became Kendricks' final single with the group. Included on the Sky's the Limit LP along with the original album version of "Smiling Faces Sometimes", "Just My Imagination" was released as a single in January 1971, and the song began steadily climbing the U.S. pop singles chart, peaking at #1 two months later. By the time "Just My Imagination" topped the charts, Kendricks had negotiated his release from the group and signed a solo deal with Motown's Tamla label.
The Temptations originally hired Ricky Owens, from the Los Angeles-based vocal group the Vibrations, to replace Kendricks. However, Owens only played two dates with the group before he was fired for forgetting the words to his solo numbers due to nervousness. For several weeks of the spring of 1971, the Temptations were without a fifth member. Owens meanwhile returned to the Vibrations and died in Los Angeles, California on December 6, 1996 at the age of 57.
Whitfield took the remaining Temptations quartet and re-recorded "It's Summer", the B-side to "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)", as a replacement single. "Smiling Faces Sometimes" was released as a single for The Undisputed Truth instead, becoming a Top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. Meanwhile, "It's Summer" peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the first Temptations single to miss the Top 40 since "Farewell My Love" eight years earlier.
After his doctor declared a few weeks later that he was unable to continue performing due to medical reasons, Paul Williams quit the Temptations in May. Richard Street officially took Williams' place, although Williams continued to be paid his customary one-fifth of group revenue (Street was paid on salary for the first eighteen months of his tenure), and worked when he could with the group as an adviser and choreographer. After Williams had recovered enough to record again, he recorded two sides in 1973 for a debut solo single. However, on August 17, 1973, Williams died in Detroit at the age of 34 from a gunshot wound, his death ruled a suicide by the Wayne County coroner.