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Remembering Dennis Edwards!

12 March 2018 Slideshow No Comment

National Museum of African American History

By Shameika Rhymes

Posted March 12th 2018




You can’t mention the Temptations without thinking of their former lead singer with the distinctive growl and soulful vocal style of Dennis Edwards. The music world is still reeling from the news that the man that led the Temptations to their first Grammy award passed away February 1 from reported complications from meningitis, one day before he would have turned 75. If you were lucky enough to meet Dennis Edwards, you would be greeted with a big heartwarming smile and a twinkle in his eye. His larger than life personality and gospel infused powerful vocals were the perfect vehicle to drive the Temptations music through the late 1960s through the 1970s, putting his distinctive mark on America’s soundtrack.

Dennis Edwards was born in Alabama and later moved to Detroit. He joined the early Motown group, the Contours in the 1960s, best known for their 1962 hit “Do You Love Me” that was recorded before Edwards joined the group.

The Contours opened for the Temptations, and when lead singer David Ruffin left the group in 1968, Edwards joined the Temptations as their new front man.

Mr. Edwards joined the Temptations just as they were about to take on a new direction under the guidance of producing and songwriting legend Norman Whitfield, who was developing a sound influenced by the psychedelic stylings of Sly & the Family Stone; taking a departure from their signature songs like “I Wish It Would Rain,” and “My Girl.” Temptations members Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Paul Williams all sang lead at one point or another but it was his gritty soul that cemented the group’s sound on songs like “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today),” “Cloud Nine,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”

Shortly after Mr. Edwards joined the group and recorded “Cloud Nine,” it won the group and Motown’s first Grammy in 1968. In 1972, they won another Grammy for “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”

Dennis Edwards left the Temptations in 1977 to pursue his solo career but rejoined the group years later.  During his solo career, he released the hit, “Don’t Look Any Further” featuring Siedah Garrett in 1984.

The song’s beat has been heavily sampled over the years, including in Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full,” Tupac Shakur’s “Hit Em Up,” and Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Get Money” with the Notorious B.I.G.

Siedah Garrett released a statement to the National Museum of African American Music about how working with Mr. Edwards helped her career:

“In the early 80s, I primarily was an unknown demo singer for L.A. based songwriters and producers and I recorded the song demo of “Don’t Look Any Further” for Dennis Lambert & Franne Golde. Motown accepted the song for their artist, Temptations ex member Dennis Edwards’ solo album. They wanted it to be a duet with Chaka Khan, but as fate would have it, Chaka was unavailable, and the company and Dennis agreed to use my demo vocal for the record. Once the single became a hit, Dennis asked me to do a club tour with him, and that was a fantastic experience for me. I feel his loss, and will be forever grateful to Dennis for giving me my first shot. I extend my condolences, prayers, and gratitude to his family for blessing us with his very special talent.”

Edwards released other solo hits in the mid-80s like “(You’re My) Aphrodisiac” and “Coolin’ Out.” His last album with original material was Talk to Me in 1993, followed by The Temptations Greatest Hits Live in 1995.

In the late 80s, he teamed up with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks for a “Tribute to the Temptations” tour.

The Temptations received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2013 that Edwards received along with Otis Williams and the survivors of the deceased group members. In 1989, the Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In the 1990s, he toured with a group called Dennis Edwards and the Temptations which led to a legal battle with Otis Williams over the use of the Temptations name. He settled by touring up until 2017 as the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards.

Living legend and founder of the Temptations, Otis Williams released a statement on social media last week:

“We learned today with great sadness of the passing of our brother, Dennis Edwards. He is now at peace, and our love and prayers go out to his family. At this moment and always, we acknowledge his extraordinary contribution to The Temptations legacy, which lives on in the music. Temptations, forever.”

Dennis Edwards will be missed but his contributions to America’s soundtrack lives on forever.

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