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PHOTO ESSAY

Motown

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The Temptations, 1966

The Temptations, 1966 (from left: Melvin Franklin, David Ruffin, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, and Eddie Kendricks). Courtesy of Photofest.

Arguably the most successful—and versatile—of all Motown acts, the Temptations recorded 37 top ten singles throughout their decades-long history, a feat made that much more remarkable considering the group's continuously evolving lineup. The original five-man group formed in 1961 with the merger of two Detroit acts, the Distants—consisting of Otis Williams, Elbridge Bryant, and Melvin Franklin—and the Primes—which included Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks (a third member, Kell Osborne, did not join). Though the group gained a reputation for musical facility, until 1964 their only commercial success was "Dream Come True," which reached number 22 on the Billboard R & B chart. That year marked two important milestones: Elbridge Bryant was replaced by baritone David Ruffin, and Motown producer Smokey Robinson began collaborating with the quintet. Under Robinson, the group had its first Top Ten hit, "The Way You Do the Things You Do." While the Temptations' status as irrepressible Motown hit machine has been rightly celebrated, the group's true legacy may lie in their consistent ability to stay relevant; among the various popular genres they readily adopted include funk ("Papa Was Rolling Stone"), ballads ("My Girl"), psychedelic-soul ("Cloud Nine"), and protest ("Stop the War Now").

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