The most successful male group of Motown Records' 1960s heyday, the Temptations personified the label's R&B-pop crossover ideal. With powerful vocal harmonies, snappy attire, and slick dance moves — not to mention access to Motown's best songwriters, producers, and studio musicians — the quintet made music that was immaculately crafted yet punchy and gritty, appealing to black and white listeners alike. The Temptations were a consistent chart presence from the mid-60s through the early 70s, with their evolving sound reflecting the era's volatile mood.
The five Detroit singers who comprised the Temptations' classic lineup — David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Otis Williams, and Melvin Franklin — all had southern roots, and all had gained early experience performing in various local groups before the Temptations found a home at Motown. The quintet recorded a handful of unsuccessful singles for the company before scoring a Top 20 hit in April 1964 with "The Way You Do the Things You Do," written and produced by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers of Motown labelmates the Miracles, and featuring Kendricks' high tenor lead vocal.
The group solidified its success early the following year with another Robinson composition/production, "My Girl," the first Temptations single to feature Ruffin's gruff-yet-supple lead vocals. "My Girl" launched an impressive run of smashes that included "Get Ready," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," "(I Know) I'm Losing You," "All I Need," "You're My Everything," and "I Wish It Would Rain."
By 1968, the fivesome's future was threatened by changes in public tastes and the crucial loss of co-frontman Ruffin. But the Temptations bounced back, with the gospel-steeped bark of replacement Dennis Edwards meshing seamlessly with the group’s new psychedelic-Soul sound and the socially conscious lyrics of such hits as "Cloud Nine," "Runaway Child, Running Wild," "Ball of Confusion," and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone."
The Temptations' post-70s career yielded fewer commercial triumphs, but the group has endured through countless ups and downs, personnel changes, and even a brief 1982 reunion with Ruffin and Kendricks. Half a century after the group's chart debut, Otis Williams (the only surviving member from the classic 60s lineup) continues to lead a modern-day incarnation of the Temptations, which remains an in-demand concert attraction.