There is a singing group that has been around for more than fifty years; a group that is said to been as influential to R&B music as the Beatles were to pop and rock. That group is the Temptations.
Known for their choreography and vocal harmony, the Temptations have been a consistent musical presence despite having more than 22 people over the years claim membership in the five man group. Their songs have been covered by Bette Midler, Rare Earth, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Luther Vandross and many others. Besides the 1998 four hour television mini-series, The Temptations, based on founding member Otis Williams’ group autobiography; actor and director Robert Townsend paid homage to the group in his 1991 movie, The Five Heartbeats.
Otis Williams, who founded the group in 1961 and still performs under the group name, and the estate of Melvin Franklin have a registered trademark on the name “The Temptations.” Williams has vigorously defended the group name against former members who have created their own spin-off groups that they called The Temptations. The spin-off groups, who are now careful not to call themselves ‘The Temptations’, have included over the years:
- Ruffin, Kendricks & Edwards: Former Leads of the Temptations
- Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Revue
- Damon Harris and the Temptations Revue
- Glenn Leonard and the Temptations Experience
- Damon Harris and the Temptations Tribute
- Glenn Leonard’s Temptation Revue
- Richard Street’s Temptations
- Legendary Lead Singers of the Temptations
- The Temptations Reunion Show
Many of these groups are still touring, but for me, only the group that ruled the charts from 1964 to 1968 can truly lay claim to the name, The Temptations. It was David Ruffin, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Otis Williams who showed me what a musical show could be as I watched them perform live in 1968 at the Baltimore Civic Center. This was the group that influenced the staging of every Motown act that’s ever been. These men were singers. These men were dancers. These men, my friends, ARE the Temptations.