Rock bands–especially British ones–always get the lion’s share of praise for music in the ’60s, so I wanted to take a moment and remind everyone of the phenomenally good homegrown music that came from Berry Gordy’s Motown Records.
A stable of dozens of soul and R&B acts studded with top-flight acts like The Supremes and Marvin Gaye, Motown was one of America’s first major breakthrough African-American commercial and artistic successes. Founder Berry Gordy’s vision of an independent record company that nurtured black artists and took them into the mainstream of American pop music flourished in the ’60s, and by the end of the decade Motown had placed itself in the core of the American experience. Its impeccable records and integrated musical palette made it an essential element of modern life throughout the nation.
The Temptations were, by most measures, the Motown vocal group. They jockeyed for ultimate praise with The Supremes and a few other Motown stars, but by the decade’s end the record company’s reputation was virtually attached at the hip with the quintet’s fortunes. Each new song rocketed the group’s profile into the stratosphere, and even today their multitude of hits are found peppered throughout the radio waves, in advertising, and in every other place needing a little soulful pep. The Temptations’ smooth choreographed performances near archetypical cliche, an imprint of optimism from a world of pop music long, long gone.
As with most vocal groups, The Temps’ lineup shifted considerable, but unlike most vocal groups, their star power lasted through even seismic shifts. The group inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is referred to as “the classic five”–Otis Williams, Paul Williams, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Melvin Franklin–and they made the majority of the Temps’ greatest hits, but then after David Ruffin was ejected from the group, Dennis Edwards came in and went along with the group as they ventured into crazier psychedelic and socially relevant landscapes. The heart of the group’s sound, that interweaving play of vocals, was always at the fore, anchored by long-term members Williams, Williams, Kendricks and Franklin through the ’60s and into the early ’70s.
ANYWAY, long story short, here’s one outstanding track in a string of outstanding tracks that placed The Temptations at the top of the heap in ’60s soul. Recorded by the aforementioned classic five lineup, the inimitable David Ruffin lends his stunningly aching vocals to an already anguished song. So good. There were so many good songs to pick in this period (“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, “You’re My Everything”, “I Wish It Would Rain”–wow!), but I had to settle on this one.