For more than fifty years, The Temptations have prospered, propelling popular music with a series of smash hits, and sold-out performances throughout the world. Current group members include Otis Williams, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon and Bruce Williamson.
The history of The Temptations is the history of contemporary American pop. An essential component of the original Motown machine, an amazing engine invented by Berry Gordy, The Temptations began their musical life in Detroit in the early sixties. It wasn’t until 1964 however, that the Smokey Robinson written-and-produced “The Way You Do the things You Do” turned the guys into stars.
An avalanche of hits followed, many of which...”My Girl,” for instance...attained immortality. Other hits that became classics include “It’s Growing,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Get Ready,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Beauty Is only Skin Deep” and “I Wish It Would Rain.”
The classic lineup was Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. Beyond the fabulous singing, the group became known for smooth stepping and flawless presentations. The Temptations Walk became a staple of American style. Flair, flash and class. Millions of fans saw the Temptations as cultural heroes.
When the sixties and seventies turned political, The Temptations got serious. They changed their tone, dress and music. Producer Norman Whitfield led the way. His Temptations hits, many featuring Dennis Edwards who had replaced David Ruffin, burned with intensity. “Runaway Child,” “Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Psychedelic Shack” still smolder.
Other stellar singers...Richard Street, Ali-Ollie Woodson...joined the group, adding luster to their growing fame. No matter the change in personnel, The Temptations remained true to The Temptations tradition. They survived the whims of fashion, whether disco or techno, and stuck to their guns. According to Williams, “Great singing will always prevail.”
In the eighties and nineties, The Temptations prevailed with smash hits like the Otis Williams’ penned “Treat Her Like A Lady,” and they performed on Motown 25 in 1983. Their popularity continued with the 1998 Emmy Award-winning, The Temptations, a NBC mini-series that chronicled the group’s history.
Then came a series of acclaimed records: For Lovers Only, a collection of love standards, termed an instant classic by critics, remains among the most cherished of all Temptations recordings.
Phoenix Rising, went through the roof, a platinum-plus mega-hit featuring “Stay,” the Narada Michael Walden produced song that topped the charts. Ear-Resistible earned a Grammy and a legion of new fans. Awesome, released in 2001, is The Temptations at their freshest, strongest, and most appealing. Reflections, released in 2005, was nominated for a Grammy and brought to the world The Temptations’ versions of some of Motown’s greatest songs.
Referencing the current band members of Williams, Tyson, Weeks, Herndon and Williamson, Tyson stated, “The more we change the more we stay true to ourselves. We’re about singing straight-up soul. It’s a style that will live on forever.”
“Our challenge is to live in the present while respecting the past,” said Williams. “Our past is filled with riches only a fool would discard. At the same time, we thrive on competition. As a Motowner, I grew up in the most competitive musical atmosphere imaginable. But we also understand that for a group with history, no matter how glorious that history might be, reinvention is the name of the game.”