My all-time favorite musical group is the Temptations. Although the lineup has changed over the decades, Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, David Ruffin and Paul Williams (no relation to Otis) are the men that first come to mind.
At an early age, I learned how to play 45s on my parents’ Curtis Mathes console–the large floor model in the living room that contained a television, an am/fm radio and a record player. After going through everyone’s records, I compiled my own stack. The Way You Do the Things You Do, I Wish It Would Rain and I’ll Be in Trouble stayed on the turntable. My Girl came later. It was not unusual for my mother to find me on the floor with my head next to one of the speakers. I was hooked on the harmonies; the lyrics were easy to learn and I was mesmerized by the melodies.
As a high school student, my R&B tastes shifted to the Gap Band, the Jacksons, Parliament/Funkadelic, plus thanks to two FM stations, WDAI and WFYR, I was exposed to bands like Genesis, Foreigner and the Police. My musical horizons expanded, but the Temptations were never left behind. Listening to Richard Pegue’s “Best Music of Your Life,” first on WGCI-AM, then WVON, and Herb Kent’s weekend shows on V-103 introduced me to b-sides, album cuts and other gems: You’ve Got to Earn It , Born to Love You, All I Need and I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You). I loved their five-part harmony as Eddie, Paul and David traded lead vocals on various selections. Remember the four-headed microphone?
As a grown woman, I savored the sight of five handsome, impeccably dressed men—all six feet tall—who danced flawlessly. I still do. Each member possessed his own distinctive style. Eddie had a soothing falsetto and a smile that could melt ice. David could ‘beg and plead for sympathy’ better than anyone else on vinyl. Melvin’s booming bass was authoritative, yet comforting. Otis was a strong and steady baritone/second tenor. And then there was Paul, my favorite Temptation.
Why Paul? I’ll give you three reasons: Don’t Look Back, Just Another Lonely Night and For Once in My Life. In the first two songs, Paul’s slightly hoarse vocals were cool, calm and confident. Yet, it was his emotional, show-stopping rendition of For Once in My Life on TCB, a 1968 television special with Diana Ross and the Supremes, that is considered by many, including myself, as Paul’s definitive performance. What made this ballad so powerful to me was his vulnerability, perhaps caused by the weight of the personal demons he battled. A couple years ago, I watched the video on YouTube and was moved to tears. Reading viewer comments, I realized I was not the only one who cried at the computer.
Thanks for reading this; please join me in Sounding Off by sharing your favorite Temptations song and which Temptation you liked the most. I look forward to your response.
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