The Temptations Years 


"Classic Five" Era

The Temptations then consisted of Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and David Ruffin; the success that followed the group resulted in what would, in later years, be frequently referred to as the "Classic Five" lineup. In January 1964, Smokey Robinson and Miracles bandmate Bobby Rogers co-wrote and produced "The Way You Do the Things You Do" with Eddie Kendricks on lead and the single became the Temptations' first Top 20 hit that April.

Shortly afterward, "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and several pre-David Ruffin singles were compiled into the group's first album, ``Meet the Temptations'', released in early 1964. The next two Temptations singles in 1964, "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" along with "I'll Be in Trouble" and its B-side "The Girl's Alright with Me", all featured Kendricks on lead (although Franklin sang one line in "I'll Be in Trouble"). However, producer Smokey Robinson saw potential in the "mellow yet gruff" voice of David Ruffin and thought that if he could write the perfect song for his lead, then the group could have a Top 10 hit.

While traveling as part of Motown's Motortown Revue later that year, Robinson and fellow Miracles member Ronnie White wrote "My Girl", which the Temptations recorded in the fall of 1964 with Ruffin singing his first lead vocal for the group. Released as a single on December 21, 1964, the song became the Temptations' first number-one pop hit in March 1965. Over 50 years and multiple chart-topping songs later, it is still their signature song to this day.

After the success of "My Girl", Ruffin sang lead on the next three singles: "It's Growing", "Since I Lost My Baby", and "My Baby", which all made it to the Top 20 in 1965. The B-side to "My Baby", "Don’t Look Back", featured a stirring lead from Paul Williams, and was a sleeper hit on the R&B charts and a standard for vocal group playlists.

Norman Whitfield had requested the opportunity to write for the group and in 1966, Berry Gordy promised him that if Robinson's "Get Ready", with Eddie Kendricks on lead, failed to chart in the Top 20, Whitfield would be allowed to produce the next song. "Get Ready" subsequently missed its mark, and Gordy issued the Whitfield-produced "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", with David Ruffin on lead, as the next single. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" outperformed "Get Ready" on the Billboard charts, and Whitfield became the Temptations' new main producer. He began pulling the group away from the ballad-based productions espoused by Robinson, toward a harder-edged and brass-heavy soul sound reminiscent of James Brown.

Nearly all singles Whitfield produced prior to 1968 featured David Ruffin on lead, including the R&B number-one/pop Top 10 hits "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep", "(I Know) I'm Losing You" and the early 1967 hit "(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It's You That I Need". Other important singles from this period include "All I Need", produced by Frank Wilson, a Whitfield protégé, and the "You're My Everything", on which Kendricks and Ruffin share the lead. Studio albums during the "Classic Five" period apart from Meet the Temptations include The Temptations Sing Smokey (1965), The Temptin' Temptations (1965), Gettin' Ready (1966), The Temptations with a Lot of' Soul (1967), and The Temptations Wish It Would Rain (1968).

During this period, the various songwriting partners of Norman Whitfield included Roger Penzabene, Edward Holland, Jr., and Temptations road show manager and guitarist Cornelius Grant. Subsequently, Barrett Strong, who sang the very first hit at Motown in 1959, "Money (That's What I Want)", began working with Whitfield and Penzabene on Temptations material after Eddie Holland left Motown with the rest of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting/production team in 1967. Two of the Whitfield-Strong-Penzabene collaborations, "I Wish It Would Rain" and "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)", became hits in early 1968 after the suicide of Roger Penzabene in December 1967. Subsequently, Barrett Strong became the sole collaborator of Norman Whitfield.

From early 1964 to mid-1968, the Temptations went from unknown hopefuls to international stars and as a result, appeared frequently on television shows such as American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Hollywood Palace. At the same time, the group began to achieve crossover success, catering to middle America with a pop standards album (The Temptations in a Mellow Mood, 1967), the success of which resulted in performances at the famous Copacabana in New York City along with dates at other similar supper clubs. 

The Temptations Legacy

The Temptations, often referred to as American Music Royalty, are world-renowned superstars of entertainment, revered for their phenomenal catalog of music and prolific career. The group is celebrating its 60th Anniversary in 2022. To mark this milestone, The Temptations released a brand-new album, Temptations 60, with nearly all-original songs in January of 2022 and are touring in the U.S, as well as abroad to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, fall of 2022. Dr. Otis Williams, the sole surviving original member of The Temptations, turned 80 on October 30th of 2021.

Ranked #1 in Billboard magazine’s most recent list of the “Greatest R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of All Time,” The Temptations also appear in the magazine’s 125th Anniversary list of the “125 Greatest of All Time Artists.” In addition, Rolling Stone magazine named the group among the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” In September 2020, the editors of Rolling Stone magazine commented that The Temptations are “Indisputably the greatest black vocal group of the Modern Era…,” and listed the group’s Anthology album among the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” The Anthology album has appeared in all three of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums lists.

The Temptations’ heritage, influence , ,and contributions to, not only American culture and African American communities but also to the global music landscape are monumental. The influence that The Temptations had on mainstream and global artists, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and others, is undeniable.

The group’s popularity is ever-increasing and they are one of the most iconic, best selling brands in the entertainment world today. While the group has evolved over the years, Dr. Otis Williams has continued to lead the group and carry the torch forward for the next generation of Temptations’ fans.

The Temptations have been the subject of a smash hit Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, which opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on March 21st, 2019. The electrifying Broadway musical received 12 Tony nominations and won the Tony Award for Best Choreography at the 73rd Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 10, 2019. It captivated thousands of theatergoers during sold-out performances on Broadway. At year-end of 2019, Ain’t Too Proud had broken the house record at the Imperial Theatre for a second time. The week ending December 29th the musical had the highest grossing week in the history of the Imperial Theatre. In June of 2019, the show’s producers announced plans for a national touring production of the musical to travel to more than 50 cities, in 100+ weeks. The national touring production of the smash hit Broadway musical kicked off their tour in December 2021 at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The touring production is scheduled to open in theaters in more than 50 cities across the U.S. during the next several years. Ain’t Too Proud is also scheduled to open in the UK, in the West End of London, at the Prince Edward Theatre on March 31, 2023.

Also in 2019, the original cast album for the smash hit Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations was nominated for a Grammy® Award in the “Best Musical Theater Album” category.

In addition to the musical, The Temptations’ journey, as seen through the lens of Otis Williams, a founding member of the group, was also a blockbuster television mini-series which aired in 1998. The mini-series, Temptations, was produced by long-time Temptations’ manager Shelly Berger, Dr. Otis Williams, and Suzanne de Passe, head of de Passe Entertainment, and was reportedly viewed by 45 million fans when it originally aired. The television mini-series went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Direction for a Miniseries or Movie, as well as the 1999 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Television Movie or Mini-series. The mini-series is still on air or streaming every day somewhere in the world.

In 2018, Universal Music Enterprises (“UMe”) released The Temptations’ studio album, All the Time, which was the group’s first new album in eight years. It was released in CD, vinyl LP, limited edition white vinyl LP and digital formats. It featured three new, original Temptations songs, in addition to inspired renditions of songs from Maxwell, The Weeknd, Sam Smith, Bruno Mars, and others.

At the time of the album’s release, Dr. Otis Williams, founding member of The Temptations said, “…Looking back, I never could have imagined where my life has taken me. I’m proud of what The Temptations have achieved, and I’m grateful for every opportunity we’ve been so fortunate to receive. The music carries me. Together, we lift our voices with love and wonder…”

The group’s 60-year history spans the 20th and 21st centuries, and their music transcends generations. The Temptations’ story is a road map through American history. What began in Detroit, when a remarkable combination of soulful voices united, was the genesis of an epic journey that introduced multiple superstars to the world and produced some of the greatest music of our era.

Motown auditioned and signed the original Temptations (Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Elbridge “Al” Bryant) in May of 1961. When the legendary “Classic Five,” (Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and David Ruffin) released the single, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” in 1964, which peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and remained on the list for 11 weeks, it marked the beginning of a multitude of award-winning and chart-topping singles and albums that would be embraced by popular music audiences globally. Considered trailblazers in the 60s,, leading the way not only for themselves but for other R&B artists, and successfully reaching mainstream audiences here and abroad, The Temptations’ rise to fame was meteoric. It was on March 6, 1965, that their first million-copy, best-selling single, “My Girl” hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The Temptations’ role as artists, and how they used their voices to speak to the times they lived through, especially during the 60’s-one of the most turbulent decades in our nation’s history, is compelling.

They were among the first African American musical artists to crossover into mainstream America and appear on popular, national mainstream television programs, such as The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Hollywood Palace. The group’s star power was so striking that these top-rated, national programs, and many others, scheduled appearances for The Temptations multiple times during a single year. At the time, this was an unparalleled accomplishment for African American entertainers.

On December 9, 1968, Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations headlined a network television special TCB (Taking Care of Business), a first for two African American music groups. According to published reports at the time, the special won its time slot, was the top-rated television variety show in 1968 and received an Emmy nomination. The original cast soundtrack album, TCB, was released a week prior to the special and reached #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums’ chart. In July 1969, Motown put together a major television special for the group called The Temptations Show. In November of that same year, a third national television special, G.I.T. (Gettin’ It Together) on Broadway, starring Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations aired, and according to published reports won the primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design. An accompanying soundtrack album by Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations was released in advance of the television special. The Temptations helped change the face of primetime television and fueled the growth in the performing arts and entertainment world for African American artists forever.

The Temptations, throughout the group’s evolution, have produced 53 Billboard Hot 100 singles, including four Billboard Hot 100 #1 singles: “My Girl,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” Additionally, they released 44 Top 10 R&B chart hits, 14 of which were #1 R&B singles, including timeless classics such as “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” and songs influenced by their funk/psychedelic soul sound including “Happy People,” and “Shakey Ground.” The group also has 16 #1 R&B Chart albums. The group’s music, then and now, continues to raise the spirit of the country and uplift a nation searching for common bonds and glimmers of hope and humanity.

The Temptations are the recipients of numerous awards and honors. The group has been awarded more than 50 Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum awards all combined. They have been awarded five Grammy® Awards (and have received nine Grammy® nominations), including the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Grammy® Award at the 56th Annual Grammy® Awards (2013). The Temptations delivered Motown’s and their first-ever, GRAMMY® at the 11th Annual Grammy® Awards in 1969 for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance by a Duo or Group, Vocal or Instrumental, for their song, “Cloud Nine.” They won their next two GRAMMYS® at the 15th Annual Grammy® Awards in 1973 for the #1 Billboard Hot 100 Single, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” which won a total of three Grammy® Awards that year: Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus, awarded to The Temptations; Best Rhythm & Blues Instrumental Performance, awarded to The Temptations and Paul Riser, and Best Rhythm & Blues Song, awarded to Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield as songwriters. The group won their fourth GRAMMY® at the 43rd annual Grammy® Awards in 2001 for their Top 20 R&B Chart Album, Ear-Resistible for Best Traditional Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance. “My Girl,” what many call their magnum opus, was inducted into the Grammy® Hall of Fame in 1998, followed by “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” a year later in 1999.

In 1974, The Temptations were the very first group to be awarded Favorite Soul/Rhythm & Blues Band/Duo/ Group at the inaugural American Music Awards Ceremony. In 1975, The Temptations recorded their album, A Song for You, that won the American Music Award for Best Soul/Rhythm & Blues Album, at the third annual American Music Awards ceremony in 1976. The album includes two wildly popular and bestselling #1 R&B singles, “Happy People,” (co-written by Lionel Richie) featuring the Commodores as instrumentalists, and “Shakey Ground” featuring instrumentals by Parliament-Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel with Billy “Bass” Nelson. In August 1998, The Temptations released the album, Phoenix Rising, featuring the debut of Terry Weeks, a lead vocalist for the group then, and now, and it won the Soul Train Music Award for Best Rhythm & Blues/Soul Album by a Duo or Group at the 12th annual Soul Train Music Awards in 1999. The single, “Stay,” from that album became a “Top 30” R&B single.

In 1983, Ron Tyson, one of the group’s current lead vocalists, joined The Temptations. In May of 1983, the televised anniversary special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, aired on NBC-TV and the extraordinary battle between The Temptations and the Four Tops led to a road tour together, famously called the “T’NT” tour. The two legendary groups still perform together today while on their respective concert tours.

In 1988, Dr. Otis Williams’ critically-acclaimed autobiography, Temptations, written with The New York Times bestselling author Patricia Romanowski, was published nationally. The book went on to become the source for both the Emmy Award-Winning television miniseries, The Temptations, in 1998 and in 2019 the smash hit Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, with Tony Award-Winning choreography and Grammy®-Winning music.

In 1989, The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Blockbuster #1 chart hits “Just My Imagination,” “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone,” and “My Girl” are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” The group was also inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999, and into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. They were invited back to the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2017 to receive The Rhythm & Blues Male Group of the 20th Century Award. They also received the NAACP Image Award “Hall of Fame Award” in 1992.

On September 14, 1994, The Temptations were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California, and on June 7, 2019 given a star on The Apollo Theater’s Walk of Fame in Harlem in New York City. At the official ceremony, Dr. Otis Williams received a plaque marking the occasion on behalf of the legendary, classic five lineup. Dr. Otis Williams was also honored at the Apollo Theater’s 85th Anniversary Gala on June 10th, 2019.

In 2003, in 2012, and again, in September 2020, Rolling Stone magazine included the group’s Anthology album, originally released in 1973, among its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2020, the editors of Rolling Stone magazine commented that The Temptations are “Indisputably the greatest black vocal group of the Modern Era…”

In 2006, Dr. Otis Williams received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Stillman College, a Historically Black College/University in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

In 2018, the Library of Congress announced the induction of The Temptations’ classic mega-hit, “My Girl” into the National Recording Registry.

In November of 2019, The Temptations appeared on Billboard’s 125th Anniversary list of the 125 Greatest of All Time Artists.

In addition, for the 2019 holiday season, Universal Music Enterprises, The Temptations’ current recording company, released a first-of-its-kind, animated video featuring the Temptations’ “Silent Night,” one of the most popular holiday songs of all time.

On March 24, 2020 Tantor Media, a division of Recorded Books, released the audiobook edition of Dr. Otis Williams’ critically acclaimed autobiography, Temptations, written with The New York Times best-selling writer Patricia Romanowski. The audiobook includes a never-before-released introduction and a newly revised final chapter. Dr. Otis Williams narrates the new introduction and J.D. Jackson, an AudioFile Golden Voice Award winner, who also narrates Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made by David Halberstam, narrates the book. The audiobook is available in CD, Mp3 and digital formats.

In June of 2020, The Temptations released, what many called a message for our times, a new, soulful version of the popular single “You’ve Got a Friend,” as a YouTube video. The group raised their voices to reflect on their ’60s struggles and pay tribute to today’s movement for change. The video was recorded in a private session in Los Angeles, California.

In July 2020, The Temptations were among the Award-Winning stars to perform in the 40th-anniversary presentation of A Capitol Fourth, the national July 4th TV tradition on PBS.

In November and December of 2020, the cast of the Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, performed in three nationally televised NBC-TV holiday events, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day ParadeChristmas in Rockefeller Center, and One Night Only: The Best of Broadway to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Beginning June 2021 through 2022, the 60th anniversary of the Temptations’ legendary history and music is being commemorated.

The Temptations always look forward to serenading fans with their soulful voices, lighting up stages with their famous Temptations’ Walk, and bringing joy to audiences of all ages.