America’s all-time favorite soul group got their start in 1960. In 1961, they recorded for the Miracle label under the name of The Elgins and The Primes.
The original lineup featured Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams (no relation to member Paul) and Eldridge Bryant.
In 1961, Berry Gordy signed the group to Motown, but since there was already an active group known as The Elgins, they changed their name to The Temptations.
When David Ruffin, cousin of Billy Stewart, replaced Bryant in 1964, that’s when the hits started coming. Although Ruffin sang lead on many of their hits, the other members shared leads on some of their other songs.
Ruffin, who was causing friction among the other group members and Motown chief, Berry Gordy, was fired from the group in 1968. Kendricks left the group in 1970 after internal problems resulted in arguments over leadership of the group. Both singers returned for the 1982 “Reunion” album.
On the charts, The Temptations scored 37 times on the Billboard Top 40 weekly charts between 1964 and 1975. Four times they went to number one and many of their songs have been covered by other artists.
Kendricks and Ruffin both had successful solo careers with Ruffin having three Top 20 Billboard hits and Kendricks having four, with “Keep On Truckin'” going to number one.
Here are The Temptations 20 biggest hits, according to the Billboard weekly Top 40 charts.
1. I Can’t Get Next To You – 1969
2. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) – 1971 – Eddie Kendricks last single as lead singer with the group.
3. Papa Was A Rolling Stone – 1972 – The Temptations last number one song and a nearly 12 minute album version was reduced to a seven minute single version.
4. My Girl – 1965 – Their first number one single and written and produced by Smokey Robinson.
5. I’m Gonna Make You Love Me – 1969 – The Temptations teamed up with the Supremes on this single which was a Top 30 hit for Madeline Bell in 1968.
6. Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today) – 1970
7. Beauty Is Only Skin Deep – 1966
8. I Wish It Would Rain – 1968 – Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded this in 1967, but didn’t do as well as the Temptations, who took it to #4.
9. Cloud Nine – 1969
10. Runaway Child, Running Wild – 1969
11. You’re My Everything – 1967
12. Masterpiece – 1973
13. Psychedelic Shack – 1970 – This song introduced the world to “psychedelic soul.” It was also a featured song, with the group singing it, in an opening sequence of the television comedy “Moonlighting.”
14. (I Know) I’m Losing You – 1966 – Rare Earth went Top 10 with this song in 1970 and Rod Stewart and Faces also covered it in 1971.
15. All I Need – 1967
16. The Way You Do The Things You Do – 1964 – Their first hit single and covered by Rita Coolidge in 1978, Hall and Oates along with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks in a medley in 1985 and UB40, going Top 10 with it in 1990.
17. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg – 1966 – The Rolling Stones took this song into the Top 20 in 1974.
18. I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You) – 1968
19. My Baby – 1966 – Another song written and produced by Smokey Robinson.
20. (Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need – 1967
The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. A four hour television miniseries, “The Temptations”, based on an autobiography by band member Otis Williams, was broadcast in 1998.
Although only one original member is still with the group, The Temptations continue to tour and bring their great sound to many fans.