Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tune of the day - Temptations - on the naughty steps

The Tempts L-R: Dennis Edwards (lead Tenor/baritone), Paul Williams (lead Tenor/Baritone), Otis Williams (Baritone), Melvin Franklin (Basso Profundo), Eddie Kendrick (lead Tenor Falsetto).

Perhaps the most talented vocal act to ever emerge from the giant Mowtown roster was 'The Temptations'. As far as I know, this is the last public performance from the 'Mighty Tempts' to feature Eddie Kendricks, doing his trademark gossamer high tenor/falsetto on the #1 "Just My Imagination", performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in early 1971.

He had long planned to 'jump' from the group, and was already organizing a solo career, which ended up being periodically successful (he even made it to 'Live Aid' years later, with discarded iconic Temp David Ruffin and Hall & Oates);

The saddest thing on this is the prophetic body language... The guys are sitting on separate steps, like a string of broken couples waiting in their divorce lawyer's office. The 'world's greatest vocal group' was in a state of open warfare around this time, with Kendricks constantly butting heads with the Otis Williams/Melvin Franklin axis, which had bounced former co-lead singer David Ruffin from the group a couple of years before.

The regular peacekeeper in the group - and Kendrick's best ally and closest friend since childhood - Paul Williams (bottom, middle step in the video) had become really ill by this time and presents a rather sorry figure as he sings the 7 words of the baritone counter-lead vocal part and looks almost like he is about to collapse. After the departure of Kendricks. Paul Williams deteriorated rapidly and was moved to a backstage role. A great singer in his own right, he, tragically, took his own life about 2 years later.

The Tempts were in the middle of their 'Psychedelic soul' period at this time, and had one more huge hit after this (without Kendricks) - the epic 'Papa Was a Rolling Stone'.

Otis Williams, to this day, still runs, and tours with, a 'cabaret-type' version of the Temptations but this performance pretty much marked the end of their 'Classic Five'-era lineup (or Six, if you include late-comer Dennis Edwards, who also has his own Temps tribute act these days, and had come back in the 80's performing on the club classic "Don't look any further" - covered in the 90's by M-People). Edwards had replaced the bespectacled, free-spirited, egomaniac Ruffin.

David Ruffin - Lick my ermine fur, baby - you know you want to!
At least the memories remain...
Anyhoo, following this show, things were never quite the same again for the 'Emperors of Soul'...

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