One of the best-known vocal groups of all time, the Temptations are renowned for their harmonies and distinct choreography. The group began in 1961 with the merger of two other Motown groups, the Primes and the Distants. First known as the Elgins, the group changed their name to avoid conflict with another group already using the name and signed with Miracle Records.
The music of the Temptations is unmistakable. Their first big hit came in 1964 with “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” During the early years, Smokey Robinson wrote and produced their songs. When Robinson stepped aside, Norman Whitfield took over writing and production. Under his direction during the late ‘60s and into the ‘70s, the group shifted their signature sound from soul to more psychedelic funk. The Temptations have continued to endure, periodically updating their style to remain contemporary.
Still performing today, the group has changed over the years, losing and replacing members. Otis Williams, who rarely sang lead, is the only remaining member from the original lineup of the 1960s. He still performs with the group today. Some members embarked on solo careers, while others were dismissed or died.
In addition to creating their own music, the Temptations have influenced many other artists, the Motown Museum stating that “the Temptations’ influence on R&B and soul music has been compared by music experts to the impact the Beatles ha[d] on pop and rock.” The group has been featured in the music of other artists, including Rick James (“Standing on the Top” and “Superfreak”) and Rod Stewart (“The Motown Song”).
The Temptations have stars on both the Hollywood (1994) and Apollo Theatre (2019) Walks of Fame. They have won several Grammys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Their first Grammy, for Best R&B Performance in 1969, was the first ever Grammy for a Motown artist. In 1974, at the first American Music Awards, the Temptations were named Favorite R&B Vocal Group.
The Temptations have also been inducted into both the Rock and Roll (1989) and the Rhythm and Blues (2013) Halls of Fame. “My Girl” (1998) and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” (1999) have both been added to the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2018, “My Girl” was also added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” were all included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”
Billboard Magazine has listed the Temptations as both the “# 1 R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of All Time” (2017) and one of “125 Greatest of All Time Artists” (2019). The Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame named the Temptations as the “R&B Male Group of the 20th Century” (2017). And Rolling Stone Magazine listed their 1973 album Anthology as one of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in both 2003 and 2012. The Broadway musical also recently won a Tony Award for best choreography in 2019.
The Temptations have lasted for more than sixty years and show no signs of slowing down. We here at Life 103.1 are pleased to include in our “Timeless Favorites” playlist a number of their most popular hits, songs that are indeed timeless in their appeal.
(allmusic.com, rollingstone.com, motownmuseum.org, temptationsofficial.com, classic.motown.com, walkoffame.com)