Classic Quintet

Intricate choreography and smooth harmonies drove the Temptations to be one of the most popular Motown groups of the ‘60s and in general, as they celebrate 60 years in the music business.

Producer Berry Gordy signed the group in 1961, but they didn’t see much success until they began working with Smokey Robinson a few years later. Robinson co-wrote and produced “The Way You Do the Things You Do” for the Temptations in 1964, which became their first Top 20 single.

The Temptations were entering their “Classic Five” era at this time, with the lineup including Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin.

That fall, Robinson wrote what would become the Temptations’ signature song and first No. 1 hit, “My Girl.” They released the song in December and it went to No. 1 by March 1965.

Norman Whitfield began writing for the group and produced the hit single “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” in 1966. Whitfield lead the Temptations away from their prior ballads and into a heavier soulful sound as he took the reins.

After a string of Top 10 hits, such as “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You” and “I Wish It Would Rain,” The Temptations were an international sensation, performing on “American Bandstand” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which helped them cross racial barriers of the time and reach both black and white audiences.

Ruffin was replaced by Dennis Edwards in 1968, and at this time Whitfield decided to shift the group’s sound again, this time embracing the funk era. The Temptations’ psychedelic-based “Cloud Nine” won Motown its first Grammy Award, for Best R&B Vocal Group Performance of 1969.

This new sound fit as the 1970s ushered in the disco scene. Whitfield created a seven-minute version of The Undisputed Truth’s “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” for the Temptations, which went to No. 1 on the charts and earned the group Grammy Awards for Best R&B Performance by a Group and Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1973.

The Temptations briefly left Motown in the late ‘70s but were resigned to the label in 1980. They embarked on a reunion tour in 1982 with Ruffin and Kendricks (who had left the group more than 10 years earlier) and released the corresponding “Reunion” album the same year. However, Ruffin and Kendricks did not continue with the group after the tour.

One of the current lead vocalists, Ron Tyson, joined in 1983. Tyson grew up singing gospel music and studied opera and guitar at Thomas Edison, Olney and Granoff School of Music in Philadelphia. At 19, he was the lead singer in his first group, The Ethics. He co-wrote a majority of his group’s songs and later wrote for Gloria Gaynor, The Four Tops, the Dells and many others.

Tyson’s first appearance as a member of the Temptations was on the “Motown 25, Today, Yesterday, Forever” television special in 1983.

“Coming from Philadelphia, a city of music, and growing up listening to the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops and so many others — all these people I admired — it was incredible being part of that historic show,” Tyson stated. “I remember Martha Reeves saying everyone was going to be watching me because I was the new kid on the block, taking over the role originally sung by Kendricks.  During the broadcast, as Smokey introduced us, and we walked up the four steps to the stage, I was just thinking ‘feet don’t fail me now.’  Then I heard him say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Temptations and the Four Tops.’  It’s a moment I’ll always remember.”

The Temptations continued to chart hits throughout the ‘80s and closed out the decade being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January of 1989.

The 1990s saw the passing of former members David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, and Melvin Franklin. To honor their memory, the group released “Emperors of Soul,” a five-disc collection that covers the Temptations’ four-decade history.

In 1998 they released their platinum album “Phoenix Rising,” which was the debut of current member Terry Weeks. The album won the Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Album by a Duo or Group in 1999.

The accolades kept rolling in for the R&B supergroup over the next two decades. The Temptations won their fourth Grammy Award in 2001 for “Ear-Resistible,” awarded Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. In 2013, the group received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and later that year, were inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

Current bass vocalist, Willie Greene, Jr., joined the Temptations in 2016 and the following year “Billboard” magazine ranked the group No. 1 on its list of the Greatest R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of All Time.

In March 2019, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations,” a musical sourced from Otis Williams’ critically-acclaimed autobiography, opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theater in New York. The production received the Tony Award for Best Choreography that year.

The group is currently on its 60th anniversary tour, which launched last summer, commemorating their Motown signing date. Their new album, “Temptations 60” is set for release Jan. 28. Fans can also watch a three-part docuseries celebrating their anniversary on the Temptations YouTube channel.

Last month it was announced that a new lead vocalist, Tony Grant has joined the group, along with longtime members Tyson, Weeks and Greene, as well as original member Otis Williams.

Throughout the lineup and stylistic changes the group has endured over the past six decades, the Temptations became a legendary quintet and their unforgettable hits remain popular to this day. Don’t miss them when they come to the Edgewater’s E Center at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16.