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Bios of the 'Classic Five' Members of the Temptations

Bradrick in an online writer who frequently writes about music history.


The Temptations

The legendary music group, the Temptations, are regarded as one of the greatest American vocal groups to ever exist. Even today, the group's legacy and impact on R&B and soul music is still prevalent within music circles. A lot of people wonder: what was it that made the Temptations such a special group? Well, the Temptations had all the elements of what a group could ask for.

They were a group that had five singers that were all capable of singing lead. They not only focused on singing, but also selling sex as well. They were a group that displayed precision choreography and dance skills during their performances, and their flashy attire and wardrobes dazzled audiences. Throughout the years, the group's lineup has changed. However, the Temptations were arguably at their best during their 'Classic Five' era in the '60s and early '70s.

The Classic Five era of the Temptations members included: Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin, and David Ruffin. This lineup was way before my time, as I wasn't even born during this era. However, often times during life we find ourselves becoming a fan of things from non-traditional methods. For me, it all began with a movie that documented the struggles and triumphs of the then Motown era group.

Each member of the Temptations brought something to the group that made it a complete unit. This article will highlight the five Temptation members that produced classic songs such as 'My Girl', 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg', 'The Way You Do The Things You Do', and 'I Wish It Would Rain'. Enjoy!


Eddie Kendricks

Eddie Kendricks was one of the co-founders of the Temptations. Kendricks is remembered for his unique falsetto style of singing, and for being the group's wardrobe manager. Kendricks also was responsible for most of the vocal arrangements for the group. Some of the songs Kendricks sang lead on included: 'Dreams Come True', 'The Way You Do The Things You Do', 'Get Ready', and 'Just My Imagination'. Eddie Kendricks left the Temptations in 1971, but returned for the group's 'Reunion' tour and album in 1982.

Eddie Kendricks was born in Union Springs, Alabama in 1939. When Kendrick's family moved near the Birmingham area as a child, he met and befriended Paul Williams, who would also become a member of the Temptations along with Kendricks. Kendricks and Williams would later form a group with friends of theirs called the Cavaliers. While looking for more opportunities in the music industry, The Cavaliers moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and later to Detroit where Kendricks and Williams would meet Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin. Along with Elbrigde 'Al' Bryant, Kendricks, Williams, Otis Williams, and Melvin Franklin formed the Temptations.

Although Kendricks remained with the Temptations throughout the '60s, a variety of issues began to push him away from the group. Kendricks later revealed during an interview in 1991 that he considered leaving the group in the mid 1960s, but instead stuck around feeling that he wouldn't receive the support he needed to go solo. After David Ruffin's departure from the group, the group's sound changed as well, which was something Kendricks wasn't receptive to. Kendricks officially left the group in 1971, but would go on to have a successful solo career. Kendricks along with the other members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. A known smoker, Eddie Kendricks was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early '90s. Kendricks eventually succumbed to lung cancer on October 5, 1992 at the age of 52.


Paul Williams

Paul Williams was a co-founder of the Temptations, and the group's baritone singer/choreographer. Paul Williams was the group member responsible for incorporating dancing and choreography into the group's performances in addition to singing. Williams sung lead on several popular Temptations songs including: 'Don't Look Back', 'I Can't Get Next to You', 'Cloud Nine', and the Temptations cover of 'For Once In My Life'.

Paul Williams was born and raised in the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama on July 2, 1939. As a kid, Williams met Eddie Kendricks, with whom he would become best friends with. Williams and Kendricks started singing together, and formed a group called the Cavaliers with fellow friends of theirs. After The Cavaliers disbanded, Williams and Kendricks along with friend Kel Osbourne formed the Primes. The trio found themselves a manger in Cleveland Ohio that moved them to Detroit.

The Primes disbanded after Kel Osbourne moved to California. Williams, along with Eddie Kendricks found out that Otis Williams had two openings in his group, and they joined with Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge Bryant to form The Elgins, who would later change their names to the Temptations. Although Paul Williams contribution to the group was important, he began to suffer from personal issues in the mid to late 1960s.

Williams suffered from sickle cell anemia, which often made it difficult for him to perform at times. He became depressed, and began to drink heavily also. Williams's health continued to decline to the point where he was often unable to perform. After a visit to a doctor in 1971, a spot was found on William's liver and he was advised to retire. He was replaced by Richard Street, but stayed on the group's payroll as an adviser and choreographer.

Williams began to record again as a solo artist in 1973. Sadly, Paul Williams was found dead in an alley on August 17, 1973 from a gunshot wound to the head. His death was ruled a suicide, but his family to this day suspects that there was foul play involved. Paul Williams was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his fellow Temptation members in 1989.


Melvin Franklin

Melvin Franklin was a co-founder of the Temptations, and the group's bass singer. Franklin had a very distinct bass voice that would be a signature trademark of the Temptations sound. Franklin sung lead on several of the group's songs, including 'I Truly, Truly Believe', Christmas song 'Silent Night', and 'The Prophet'. Franklin is also remembered for his live performance of Paul Robeson's 'Ol' Man River'.

Melvin Franklin was born in Montgomery, Alabama on October 12, 1942. Franklin moved to Detroit at the age of ten, and was a member of several music groups in Detroit as a teenager. One of the groups that Franklin was a part of was the Voice Masters, which also featured Lamon Dozier and David Ruffin, who would later join the Temptations. Franklin met Otis Williams in 1958, and joined William's group Otis Williams and the Siberians.

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Following the disbandment of the Siberians, Franklin would remain with Otis Williams as they along with Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Elbridge Bryant formed the group the Elgins. The Elgins would later become the Temptations. Franklin and Otis Williams remained best friends for over 30 years, and were the only two original members never to quit the group. Similar to fellow group member Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin began to battle health related issues in the late 1960s.

Franklin was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and began to take cortisone to combat the disease. The consistent usage of cortisone left Franklin's immune system weakened, and he would eventually develop diabetes. Franklin was shot in both the hand and leg in 1978 while trying to prevent a man from stealing his car. Melvin Franklin died in 1995 after falling into a coma from a number of seizures. He along with his fellow members of the Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.


David Ruffin

David Ruffin was the last of 'The Classic Five' Temptations to join the group. However, Ruffin was the member that probably had the most impact on the group's success. Known for having a unique raspy voice, Ruffin joined the Temptations in 1964 after Elbridge 'Al' Bryant was fired from the group. Ruffin initially sung background vocals, with the leads being traded between Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. However, Motown artist Smokey Robinson saw something in Ruffin when he became the group's producer and co-writer.

Smokey Robinson wrote and gave the lead to Ruffin on what is probably the Temptations most popular song 'My Girl' in 1964. 'My Girl' became the group's first number one single, and the momentum of the song pushed Ruffin into the role of the leading singer. Other popular Temptation songs that Ruffin sung lead on include: 'It's Growing', 'Since I Lost My Baby', 'Beauty's Only Skin Deep', and 'I Wish It Would Rain'.

Ruffin's ego began to take over by 1967, as he began to cause problems for the group. Ruffin became addicted to cocaine, and would often show up late for rehearsals and performances. Ruffin also insisted that the group's name should be changed to David Ruffin and the Temptations, which would lead to a lot of friction between he and Otis Williams. After having enough of Ruffin, the group chose to fire him in 1968. David Ruffin would be replaced by Dennis Edwards.

Ruffin would remain a problem for Motown and the Temptations following his departure. He would often show up at the group's shows, and steal the microphone from Dennis Edwards during performances, which led to the group having to hire added security. Ruffin also sued Motown Records in 1968, seeking a release from his the record label. The case was eventually settled, with Ruffin staying with Motown as a solo artist.

Ruffin had successful years as a solo artist following his tenure with the Temptations. He developed a friendship with Eddie Kendricks, and the two later joined the Temptations in 1982 for their 'Reunion' tour and album. However, Ruffin continued with many of the habits that led to his firing from the group during the 'Reunion' album tour. Ruffin's addictions led him to miss shows, and subsequently caused the group to lose money. Ruffin would be fired for the second and final time.

Throughout the mid- and late-'80s, Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks would perform together as a duo. The two would later team up with Dennis Edwards, whom originally replaced Ruffin, and formed the group Ruffin/Kendricks/Edwards: Former Leads of the Temptations. The three were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 along with Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and posthumously Paul Williams.

David Ruffin died on June 1, 1991 in Philadelphia of an 'adverse reaction to drugs'. He was 50 years old at the time of his death.


Otis Williams

Otis Williams is one the co-founders of the Temptations, and the only member from the original lineup that is still living today. Now at age 71, Williams currently still performs with the group. Williams rarely sung lead on records for the Temptations, but was primarily known for being the groups leader and organizer. He was also known as the group's 'background tenor in the middle'.

Otis Williams was born in Texarkana, Texas. However, William's mother moved to Detroit Michigan while he was still a toddler. During his teenage years, Williams became interested in singing. It was during his teenage years when Williams helped put together several singing groups headlined as Otis Williams and the Siberians, El Domingoes, and the Distants. It was during his teenage years when he would meet and befriend fellow Temptation member Melvin Franklin, with whom Williams would maintain a friendship with for over 30 years.

Otis Williams along with 'The Classic Five' Temptations and Dennis Edwards was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Williams co-authored a book titled 'Temptations' in 1988. The book was deemed William's personal autobiography, and a history of the group. Ten years later, the book would be adapted into a television miniseries for NBC titled 'The Temptations'.

Throughout the years, public opinion of Otis Williams has been mixed. Some viewed Williams's account of his former group members as being negative and jealous, while others have defended Williams for his brutally honest accounts of the troubles the Temptations shared.


Member Facts

Each member of the Temptations not only had unique voices, they also had different styles, nicknames, and personalities. Here are some added facts about the group.

  • Otis Williams received an honorary doctorate from Stillman College in 2006.
  • Melvin Franklin was known as 'Blue' by friends and group members. This nickname came from Franklin's love of the color blue.
  • Eddie Kendricks favorite food was cornbread, and he was given the nickname 'Cornbread' or 'Corn' by the group.
  • The late Rick James was the nephew of Melvin Franklin. James idolized lead singer David Ruffin, and jumped at the chance to produce the song 'Standing on the Top' in 1982 during the Temptations 'Reunion' album.
  • Paul Williams took over the live performances of 'My Girl' following David Ruffin's exit from the group.
  • Melvin Franklin worked as a voice actor in the 1984 cartoon series 'Pole Position'. Franklin provided the voice of the character Wheels.
  • David Ruffin was nicknamed 'Ruff' by group members.
  • David Ruffin was the mastermind behind the Temptations trademark four-headed microphone stand.


Questions & Answers

Question: Is Ottis Williams and Paul William related?

Answer: To the best of my knowledge, they are not related.


Md Zakirul Islam from United state on August 22, 2020:

Are you a singer? Do you want to show your talent to many people in the world? This is our website If you want to be popular soon, share your talent on this website. We will help you become a popular singer

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on August 14, 2020:

@Wockie, Thanks for sharing your insight!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on August 14, 2020:

@Linda L HInes, Agreed!

Wockie on June 23, 2020:

The sound of the original Temptations will never duplicated. If you put all male singing groups on individual shelves on a wall the Temptations will be on the top shelf and all others will be under them. Just their presence alone changes basically every atmosphere. I think they are the "GOAT" of all male singing groups. Back in my day everybody wanted to be like The Temptations!!!!!!!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on December 27, 2019:

@Rick, Thank you very much! I can totally relate to the feeling you expressed when hearing their music, and I'm sure many others can also. Thanks again!

Rick on December 25, 2019:

Good article. There is no better feeling I get, is when i listen to the Temptations,,what voices they had.

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on October 18, 2019:

@Terry, I agree 100% One of the greatest groups ever!

Terry on October 10, 2019:

The group's voice are sweet to hear and their moves are unique. Love them

Linda L Hines on September 12, 2019:

No one can touch this group no one can replace their talent lets not focus on the negative things david ruffin with his unique

voice eddie paul and melvin the original temps forever!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on June 21, 2019:

@Drema logsdon, No complaints here with that comment. Thank you for reading and chiming in!

Drema logsdon on June 17, 2019:

Truly the best group ever. The group was riddled with adversity but when they came together it was MAGIC

WJPendock on April 03, 2019:

Now that was MUSIC !!!!!

Paul on March 15, 2019:

Don’t ever forget that it was Smokey who created all there early secess, writing songs one after another that touched all our hearts one way or the other

Mary lane on February 14, 2019:

I rember one saturday night in chicago me and my friends were in the gayhawk lounge dancing.the dj announced the next song.hey everybody.listen to this new cut by the temptations.its called My Girl.the rest is history.wonderful to have experienced the temptations first hand.

Ron Stricklin on October 23, 2018:

Never ever be another group like the Temps or a singer like David Ruffin!!

Jeri on September 06, 2018:

Best group ever, i saw them at Disneyland when i was young.

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on March 06, 2018:

@Wockie Dee, Well said! Thank you!

Wockie Dee on March 04, 2018:

There will never be a singing group like the Temptations. You can bring men together with great voices, but the Temptations only comes once in a lifetime. No matter where you are when a Temptation song comes on the radio, television or anywhere the atmosphere immediately change. "Often immitated but never duplicated" Temptations Forever. Go Temptations!!!!!!!

Sharon on February 04, 2018:

I saw the Temptations in concert in Chicago in early 1969 they were great

Loved the movie about them

Always watch it when it comes on tv

One of the greatest groups of there time

Music groups today need to watch and learn from the music groups of the 60's

B Snow on November 24, 2017:

My favorite group of all time . When I was stationed overseas back in the 60 s. I evened tried to dress like them

Denise on August 12, 2017:

Watching this fantastic movie on THE TEMPTATIONS! What a talented group!

MCDJ Services on July 16, 2017:

Just saw the entire Temptation’s movie and could relate to my childhood and young adult years.

Besides the movie answering many of the questions I had in the past, it delivered information I am happy to learn. However, not mentioning the band (The Funk Brothers) that worked so hard and so long at Motown for most of the groups was not given proper credits for their success.

To the members of the Temptations, Motown and their fans that helped make history, my hat is off to you.

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on June 09, 2017:

@Amber Mullins, Yea, the movie was a great one. I remember when I bought it back in the day on VHS, I would literally watch it nearly everyday during the summer. Good times! Glad you found this article informative. Thank you for reading and leaving your feedback. All the best!

Amber Mullins on June 08, 2017:

I recently watched the movie of the temptations. Being born in 1968 I didn't know who was the original voices of the old songs My Girl, etc. I love the oldies and often listened with my Mother when I was very young still at home. I loved the movie but being a soft heart couldn't help but cry at the end. So glad I got to read more about them in this article, and it was great to know that the movie was so correct I their lives and careers.

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on June 04, 2017:

@Shelby, Thank you for reading and commenting! Temptations Forever!

bj Shelby on June 04, 2017:

My favorite group of all times... Temptations Forever!!!!!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on May 30, 2017:

@SHARON DEE, Yes, The Tempts are and forever will be legendary. Thank you for reading!

SHARON DEE on May 29, 2017:

The Temptations are Forever! I love them so much and always will. The best group ever! The only group that has come close to them is New Edition. Thanks for keeping their legacy alive.

Beverly on March 11, 2017:

I grew up listening to the temptations in the 60s and 70s and they are my favorite Motown group. Used to watch them on shows and ed Sullivan. Miss that group.

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on December 13, 2016:

@Richard Ruiz, What you said about David Ruffin is true, but that's not the focus with this article. Also, you're going off of what happened in the film in regards to Melvin. His death didn't happen in the manner it was portrayed in the film.

Richard Ruiz on December 09, 2016:

David Ruffin was a cocaine addict and was removed from the group many times and Melvin died after trying to get some BBQ ribs with his mom and Otis Williams

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on September 06, 2014:

@word55, You're welcome sir, and thanks again for viewing and commenting!

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on September 05, 2014:

Hey bro. You are an ace. That was it! Thanks a lot.

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on September 05, 2014:

@word55, I Google'ed the lyrics to the song, and it came up with "You're Not an Ordinary Girl". Whenever I see my uncle again, I'll play it for him and see if he remembers it. Hope this helps you sir. Thanks again!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on September 05, 2014:

@word55, Wow! So you're a music producer? That's cool. I'll be sure to check out some of your music via your hubs. Glad to be keeping in touch with you as well.

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on September 03, 2014:

One final question: I'm looking for the title of a song that Eddie Kendricks is leading. I sounds like a mid 60s tune. One of the lines is: " you aint got no holo, hangin' over yo head". It was more likely an album track but I liked the little bit I heard as a Chicago DJ was playing Temptation dusties. Maybe your uncle can recognized it here time place is 40:40.

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on September 03, 2014:

Hey prospect, I produce artists by the way, some of my music is featured here on HP so check it out. Sometimes, I feature one of my songs where the title says (song). It's usually R&B. Glad we are keeping in touch.

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on September 03, 2014:

@word55, Wow! Thank you very much sir for the thorough and detailed reply, as well as for taking out the time to read this. My fascination with The Temptations started after seeing the movie that chronicled their rise in show business. From there, I began to purchase a lot of their older music, and do research on them. I found out via the movie and through research as you mentioned, that as great of a group they were, they also had their share of problems that threatened to end the group. At any rate, it's very impressive that their name continues to be relevant after all this time. I wish I could have grown up in the era that you did, so I could have been able to hear some of their treasured gems when they were first released. My uncle was a huge fan of theirs also, so I learned more about them through him. Again, thank you for taking out the time to read, and as well for the kind words. Thank you and peace and blessings to you.

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on September 03, 2014:

prospectboy, This article on The Temptations was the greatest! You covered so much wonderment of The "Classic" Temptations. I admired your style of displaying information about each one of them. Yes, I grew up listening to their songs. I appreciated the contributions of Smokey, writing some of their greatest hits. When I bought the album "Temptations Sing Smokey" I was really flabbergasted that they allowed Smokey Robinson's name and authenticity in their album's title. However, after hearing the songs, Smokey was well deserving. You can spend a complete hub on each one of these, as you call them "The Classic Five." Even when Eddie K went solo. He had the opportunity to embellish his falsetto style of singing. Of course, as successful to the public as they were, The Temps had their share of problems. Problems somehow, comes with being as successful. You covered these guys as if you were living in my time or, someone older told you about the MOTOWN STORY and played many of the songs for you. May you cover many more my brother and may God bless all your endeavors. Thanks!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on August 07, 2013:

@Wendell Patterson, Hello sir, and thank you very much for taking out the time to read this. That's really awesome to hear that Eddie Kendricks mother lived around the corner from your parents. Wow! Did your parents ever socialize with her? Anyway, thanks again for leaving your feedback. I appreciate it a lot!

Wendell Patterson from Alabama on August 06, 2013:

Awesome blog being from Alabama, I have always been a fan of the Tempation. Eddie Kendricks mother actually lived around the corner from my parents when I was a young child. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece. Great job !!!!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on July 31, 2013:

@Mike Robbers, Thank you very much sir. Glad you enjoyed!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on July 31, 2013:

@CyberShelley, Hello, and I'm glad you enjoyed this. Yes, their music careers weren't without hard times and hardships. However, they were an amazing group of performers from their vocal abilities to their dancing skills. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading. I appreciate it a lot!

Bradrick H. (author) from Texas on July 31, 2013:

@DDE, Thank you so much, and yes they were awesome. Sometimes I wish that I grew up in their era, but it's great to know that Otis Williams is still alive and well.

Mike Robbers from London on July 28, 2013:

A well written and presented hub about the life of a great music group. The music videos were also great! Thanks for sharing!

Shelley Watson on July 27, 2013:

I enjoyed reading about their lives, which wasn't nearly as harmonious as their warm voices portrayed while singing. Lovely to hear the old songs again - thank you.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 27, 2013:

Informative and what a great group of singers

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