The Temptations

The Temptations were an American soul group from Detroit, formed in 1961. They first charted in 1964 with “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” sung by tenor Eddie Kendricks. With baritone David Ruffin at the fore, they hit number-one with the evergreen ballad “My Girl,” co-written and produced by Smokey Robinson, who also provided their anthem “Get Ready.”

They subsequently worked with producer Norman Whitfield, who supplied them with further charting hits with “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.”

After Ruffin’s departure, The Temptations turned psychedelic on their 1968 single “Cloud Nine.” This newfound hard-edged approach yielded further Gold on the 1969/70 singles “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Psychedelic Shack,” and “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today).” Their subsequent ’70s output ranges from gritty soul-funk (“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”) to string-laden lavishness “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me).”

Members: Otis Williams (tenor vocals, baritone vocals), Melvin Franklin (bass vocals, 1961-95), Eddie Kendricks (tenor vocals, lead vocals, 1961-71, 1982), Paul Williams (baritone vocals, lead vocals, 1961-71), Elbridge “Al” Bryant (tenor vocals, 1961-63), David Ruffin (lead vocals, tenor vocals, 1964-68, 1982), Dennis Edwards (lead vocals, tenor vocals, 1968-76, 1980-84, 1987), Ricky Owens (tenor vocals, lead vocals, 1971), Damon Harris (tenor vocals, lead vocals, 1971-75), Richard Street (baritone vocals, lead vocals, 1971-92), Glenn Leonard (tenor vocals, lead vocals, 1975-83), Louis Price (lead vocals, tenor vocals, 1976-80), Ron Tyson (tenor vocals, lead vocals, 1983-present), Ali-Ollie Woodson (lead vocals, tenor vocals, 1984-87, 1988-96)

The Temptations formed in 1961 Detroit when two members of the recently disbanded Primes, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, joined a new group with three ex-members of friendly rivals The Distants: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge “Al” Bryant. Williams initiated the new group for an audition with Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.

The Distants had cut two 1960 doo wop singles, “Open Your Heart” and “Come On,” for the Warwick and Northern labels. The Primes were mentored by Milton Jenkins, who also mentored a sister act, The Primettes, who morphed into The Supremes. The new five-piece initially called itself The Elgins until Gordy discovered the name was already in use, so the group became The Temptations. (A unrelated soul act called The Elgins would record for Motown in the mid-1960s.)

The Temptations issued their first two singles, the Williams-sung numbers “Oh Mother of Mine” and “Check Yourself,” in 1961 on Motown’s Miracle division. After Miracle folded in 1962, they moved to Motown’s Gordy imprint and issued “(You’re My) Dream Come True,” with Kendricks on vocals. Over the next two years, the group released seven singles and established their name as part of the Motortown Revue, a series of package tours promoted by the label.

In 1963, Smokey Robinson started working with The Temptations as their writer and producer. His first song for them, “I Want a Love I Can See,” became a live staple. One of the group’s most ardent fans, David Ruffin, joined them onstage one night to demonstrate his song and dance skills. Meanwhile, relations between Bryant and the other four members soured. After two onstage altercations, Bryant was sacked and Ruffin became their new fifth member.

In January 1964, The Temptations scored their first hit with the Kendricks-sung “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” written by Robinson and Miracles bandmate Bobby Rogers. That and most of the group’s earlier Motown singles are included on Meet the Temptations, released in April 1964. Two further Kendricks-led singles followed that year: “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)” and “I’ll Be in Trouble” (b/w “The Girl’s Alright with Me”).

Ruffin took the lead on their first chart-topper, the 1965 ballad “My Girl,” written by Robinson and fellow Miracle Ronnie White. That same year, they notched three additional hits: “It’s Growing,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” and “My Baby” (b/w “Don’t Look Back”). In 1966, they issued the seminal “Get Ready,” later recorded in long-form by Motown rockers Rare Earth. It was Robinson’s last collaboration with The Temptations, who subsequently worked with writer/producer Norman Whitfield.

(Around this time, David’s brother Jimmy Ruffin signed to Motown as a solo act and scored a big hit (R&B #6, Pop #7) with “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” originally intended for The Spinners.)

The Temptations first Whitfield single was the R&B chart-topper “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Other hits followed in this newfound gritty vein, including “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” and “(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need,” all sung by Ruffin.

Amid some acrimony, Ruffin was replaced by ex-Contours singer Dennis Edwards. However, Ruffin rushed the stage at several subsequent concerts to sing on his hit numbers, a stunt that proved popular with audiences. Following a round of litigation, he went on to record as a solo act for Motown.

In 1968, The Temptations and The Supremes scored a joint hit with their cover of the Gamble/Huff composition “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” originally recorded by Dee Dee Warwick. It’s included on their collaborative album Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations.

In February 1969, The Temptations released Cloud Nine, their first in a string of soul-psych albums with Whitfield.


  • The Temptations Sing Smokey (1965)
  • Temptin’ Temptations (1965)
  • Gettin’ Ready (1966)
  • With a Lot o’ Soul (1967)
  • In a Mellow Mood (1967)
  • The Temptations Wish It Would Rain (1968)
  • Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations (1968)
  • Cloud Nine (1969)
  • The Temptations Show (TV, 1969)
  • Puzzle People (1969)
  • Together (1969 • Diana Ross & The Supremes With The Temptations)
  • Psychedelic Shack (1970)
  • The Temptations’ Christmas Card (1970)
  • Sky’s the Limit (1971)
  • Solid Rock (1972)
  • All Directions (1972)
  • Masterpiece (1973)
  • 1990 (1973)
  • A Song for You (1975)
  • House Party (1975)
  • Wings of Love (1976)
  • The Temptations Do the Temptations (1976)
  • Hear to Tempt You (1977)
  • Bare Back (1978)
  • Power (1980)
  • Give Love at Christmas (1980)
  • The Temptations (1981)
  • Reunion (1982)
  • Surface Thrills (1983)
  • Back to Basics (1983)
  • Truly for You (1984)
  • Touch Me (1985)
  • To Be Continued… (1986)
  • Together Again (1987)


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