It’s surprising to me that we’re now several months into Soul Serenade, and I have yet to feature a track by the Temptations. They are, after all, my favorite soul vocal group, and one of my favorite acts of any genre ever. I did feature a David Ruffin track (“Walk Away From Love”) in week three, but that was from his solo years after he left the group.
I had the honor of getting to see the original lineup of the Temptations, Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, and Melvin Franklin, back in 1967. It remains one of the most vivid memories of my concert-going life. Tall and resplendent in their gold suits, the Tempts sang and danced up a storm on the stage of Walsh Auditorium, also known as the Seton Hall University gym, in South Orange, NJ. Speaking of dancing, a lot of people credit them with inventing the concept of r&b choreography. While that’s not quite true (the Cadillacs probably deserve the credit), they certainly furthered the form, and influenced countless groups that were their contemporaries, and many that came after them.
I choose “You’re My Everything” for today because not only is it one of my favorite Temptations songs, it’s one of the few to feature lead vocal turns from both of the group’s main weapons. Eddie Kendricks has the lead, but that’s David Ruffin on the bridge and the outro. I can’t be sure, but since the single was a hit for them in 1967, #3 on the R&B Chart and #6 on the Pop Chart, I probably heard the Tempts sing it live that long ago night. It was the first of three singles to be written for the group by Motown songwriter Roger Penzabene. The other hits he penned for them were “I Wish It Would Rain,” and “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You),” both of which drew on Penzabene’s true life heartbreak after he found his wife cheating on him. It goes without saying that its the Funk Brothers playing on the track, featuring Cornelius Grant on guitar.
For all of their considerable success, in the end, the story of the Temptations is one of the most tragic in music history. Despondent over his reduced role in the group, Paul Williams took his own life at age 34. After leaving the Temptations, David Ruffin had successful solo career, but died of a drug overdose in Philadelphia in 1991. A year later, lung cancer took Eddie Kendricks. Melvin Franklin died in 1995, leaving co-founder Otis Williams to carry on the Temptations name, which he does to this day. It’s a sad story to be sure, but oh the glory of the Temptations in full flight.
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