Category: the temptations

On this day in music history: December 2, 1972 – “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written and produced by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the fourth and final number one pop single for the veteran Motown vocal group. The song is originally recorded by The Undisputed Truth (“Smiling Faces Sometimes”) in 1971 with their version peaking at #24 on the R&B singles chart and #63 on the Hot 100. When The Temptations hear the track for the first time, initially they are unhappy with the songs’ extended intro (the first vocal doesn’t begin until nearly four minutes into the LP version and nearly two minutes into the single version). The opening lyric (“It Was the third of September, that day I’ll always remember, yes I will. ‘Cause that was the day, that my daddy died.”) is particularly upsetting to lead singer Dennis Edwards. Though Edwards father died on the third of October (not the third of September as was the often repeated legend), it still hits a little too close to home. Ever the hard driving perfectionist in the studio, Whitfield has the group recut their vocals numerous times much to their annoyance, though it results in the performance captured on the finished record. The twelve minute long album track is edited down to just under seven minutes for single release. In spite of its length, the record is an across the board smash. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” wins three Grammy Awards including Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group, Best R&B Instrumental Performance, and Best R&B Song in 1973. “Papa” is covered numerous times over the years including a version by musician Bill Wolfer in 1982 that features Michael Jackson on background vocals. George Michael also perform the song as part of a medley with Adamski and Seal’s song “Killer” in 1992 at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and released on the EP “Five Live”. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 25, 1968 – “Cloud Nine” by The Temptations is released. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the twenty fourth single release for the legendary Motown vocal quintet. After lead vocalist David Ruffin is fired from The Temptations in June of 1968, he is replaced by former Contours (“Do You Love Me?”, “First I Look At The Purse”) member Dennis Edwards. With the new addition, producer Norman Whitfield takes the opportunity to take the group in a new musical direction. Using the template of Sly & The Family Stone’s recent hit “Dance To The Music” (at the suggestion of Temptations leader Otis Williams), with its funky and driving back beat, along with the band’s unique habit of having several members taking a turn at lead vocals in the course of a song, inspired him to try something similar with the Tempts. Lyrically, “Cloud Nine” is different from anything previously released by Motown, with its narrative about being poor and disaffected, looking for an escape and release from that situation. The basic track for the song is cut at Golden World in Detroit (Motown Studio B) with members of The Funk Brothers on October 1, 1968. Whitfield also hires another young Detroit based guitarist named Dennis Coffey to play the signature wah wah guitar part on the song. Dubbed “psychedelic soul” by music critics and the public, the single marks the beginning of a new era for The Temptations, quickly racing up the R&B and pop charts immediately after its release. Issued in mono for the single release, the 45 mix of “Cloud Nine” differs significantly from its stereo counterpart. For The Tempts vocal coda at the songs conclusion, most of the instrumentation accept for the hi-hat cymbals drop out of the mix, as the group sings to the fade out. “Cloud Nine” peaks at #2 on the Billboard R&B singles chart and #6 on the Hot 100 in January of 1969. It also wins The Temptations a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal Or Instrumental in 1969, making them the first Motown artists to receive that honor. “Cloud Nine” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 18, 1969 – “I Can’t Get Next To You” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 5 weeks on October 4, 1969. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the ninth R&B chart topper and second pop number one for the Motown vocal quintet. On a roll after changing lead vocalists and going in a bold new musical direction in 1968, The Temptations continue their hot streak into 1969. Much like their groundbreaking single “Cloud Nine”, the groups hit from earlier in the year, producer Norman Whitfield arranges the song so that all five members of the Tempts rotate singing lead through the course of the song, borrowing the template from Sly & The Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music”. The basic track is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on June 23, 1969 with members of The Funk Brothers playing on it. Further overdubs are recorded on June 24, 27, 30, and July 2, 1969. The Temptations add their vocals on July 3, 1969. Released on July 30, 1969, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #84 on August 16, 1969, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. An instrumental mix of the song is featured on the Deluxe Edition of the soundtrack for “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” in 2002. “I Can’t Get Next To You” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 27, 1972 – “All Directions”, the twelfth studio album by The Temptations is released. Produced by Norman Whitfield, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI and Hitsville USA West in Hollywood, CA from Early – Mid 1972. The group are initially resistant to recording the tracks “Run Charlie Run” (about the mass exodus of white families from major urban centers to the suburbs) and “Papa Was Rolling Stone”, feeling their sensitive subject matter and lyrics will turn some fans off. Lead singer Dennis Edwards especially object to the latter when the songs lyrics hit a little too close to home. However, the group relent and record the songs. “Papa Was Rolling Stone” hits number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (#2 R&B), winning three Grammy Awards including The Temptations second award for Best R&B Group Vocal Performance in 1973. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP by Speaker’s Corner Records in 2008. It is also remastered and reissued as an SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2012, and as an HDCD encoded CD (packaged in a mini LP replica sleeve) by Universal/UMe France in 2014. “All Directions” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, and peaks at number two on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: July 17, 1967 – “With A Lot O’ Soul”, the fifth studio album by The Temptations is released. Produced by Norman Whitfield, Smokey Robinson, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Frank Wilson and Ivy Jo Hunter, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Fall 1966 – Spring 1967. Released during the period when the legendary Motown vocal group is reaching the peak of their commercial success, the album is the most successful of the groups’ “Classic 5” era line up. It spins off four hit singles including the top 10 hits “(I Know) I’m Losing You (#1 R&B, #8 Pop), "All I Need (#2 R&B, #8 Pop), ”(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need" (#3 R&B, #14 Pop), and “You’re My Everything” (#3 R&B, #6 Pop). Over the years, outtakes from the sessions that produce this album surface on compilations such as The Temptations “Emperors Of Soul” box set in 1994, and “Lost and Found: You’ve Got To Earn It (1962-1968)” in 1999. The album is remastered and reissued in 1998 with the original cover artwork restored. “With A Lot O’ Soul” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, and peaking at number seven on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: June 25, 1966 – “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 8 weeks, also peaking at #13 on the Hot 100 on July 16, 1966. Written by Norman Whitfield and Eddie Holland, it is the third chart topping single for the legendary Motown vocal quintet. With The Temptations’ subsequent follow ups to the chart topping “My Girl” (It’s Growing" (#3 R&B, #18 Pop), “Since I Lost My Baby” (#4 R&B, #17 Pop), and “My Baby” (#14 R&B, #83 Pop) falling short of expectations on the pop charts, producer and songwriter Norman Whitfield is given the opportunity to produce a track for the group. Barely twenty five years old at the time, Whitfield is a highly talented writer and cocksure in his belief that he can provide The Tempts the hit they need. Writing with lyricist Eddie Holland, the pair come up with “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”. The track is recorded on January 4, 1966 at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit with members of the Funk Brothers providing musical support. The Temptations overdub their vocals a week later on January 11, 1966. When it comes time for the finished song to be heard during Motown’s weekly Quality Control meetings, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” is initially initially rejected in favor of “Get Ready” which is also co-written and produced by Smokey Robinson. Disappointed, Whitfield goes back and cuts the track again, and is rejected a second time. Determined not to be turned down a third time, Whitfield is especially demanding on lead singer David Ruffin, pushing Ruffin to sing above his normal vocal range. By the time the vocal session wraps, the singer is drenched in sweat with his glasses fogged over and askew on his face. But the producer gets exactly the results he’s looking for. After hearing the third version of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, and after “Get Ready” (#1 R&B, #29 Pop) performs disappointingly on the pop chart, Gordy approves the release of “Beg” as the follow up. Released on May 3, 1966, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” takes off like a rocket. Entering the R&B chart at #22  and #67 on the Hot 100 on May 28, 1966, it rises up both charts quickly. An instant classic, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” gives The Temptations their third R&B #1, and establishes Norman Whitfield as the groups main producer, a title he holds for the next eight and a half years. One of the most popular songs in the Motown catalog, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” is covered numerous times, including versions by Count Basie, Willie Bobo, The Rolling Stones, Rick Astley and Phil Collins. In 1985, David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks record the song again as part of a live medley of Temptations classics with Daryl Hall & John Oates. The song is also featured in a memorable sequence in the film “The Big Chill” in 1983. “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 15, 1966 – “Gettin’ Ready”, the fourth studio album by The Temptations is released. Produced by Smokey Robinson, Norman Whitfield, William “Mickey” Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, Robert Staunton and Robert Walker, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Late 1965 – Mid 1966. The album marks a major turning point in the career of the superstar Motown group career as producer Norman Whitfield takes over duties as The Tempts main producer from Smokey Robinson. Berry Gordy challenges Robinson and Whitfield to see who can score a bigger hit on the pop charts for the group. Robinson responds with the song “Get Ready” which tops the R&B charts, but falls short on the pop chart peaking at #29. Whitfield gets his shot with “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”. It also hits #1 on the R&B chart, peaking at #13 on the pop chart, leading him to being the groups producer almost exclusively for the next seven years. The album also includes the first recording of the song “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” which becomes a big hit for Marvin Gaye three years later. “Gettin’ Ready” spends six weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, and peak at number twelve on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: May 7, 1970 – “Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” by The Temptations is released. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the thirty fourth single release for the legendary Motown vocal quintet. At the turn of the new decade, The Temptations continue rack up one hit after another. Always interested in topical subject matter, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong once again use their talents to comment on current events. With the Vietnam War still raging, widespread protests against the war, violence in major cities, rampant drug use, and the general feeling that the world is teetering on the brink of oblivion, the pair use the occasion to write one of their most powerful and affecting songs. The basic track for “Ball Of Confusion” is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on April 12, 1970 with The Funk Brothers providing musical support. The Temptations add their vocals two days later on April 14, 1970, with Dennis Edwards, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams all trading off lead vocals. Bass singer Melvin Franklin adds the crowning touch with unforgettable refrain “…and the band played on” throughout. Hitting the radio during the first week of May 1970, as the country is reeling from the tragedy of four students being killed by National Guard troops at Kent State University in Ohio, making the song an even more poignant statement. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #80 on May 23, 1970 and #29 on the R&B singles chart on May 30, 1970, it ascends the charts with rapid speed, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on June 27, 1970, and #2 on the R&B chart. “Confusion” is unable to unseat The Jackson 5’s third chart topper “The Love You Save” on the R&B chart, spending five weeks in the runner up position before being knocked back to #3 on July 25, 1970 by Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)”. On the pop singles chart, it’s unable to rise past Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” and The J5 parked at #1 and #2 for four consecutive weeks. In time, “Ball Of Confusion” becomes one of Motown’s most popular and widely covered songs. In 1982, it is covered by B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation), a side project featuring Heaven 17 members Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, with lead vocals by Tina Turner. Its success in the UK is initial catalyst to Tina’s triumphant comeback, when Capitol Records signs her on the strength of the B.E.F. record. “Confusion” is also covered by UK band Love And Rockets in 1985. In 2003, an alternate mix of The Tempts original version featuring additional vocals not included on the original stereo or mono mixes, is released on the compilation “Psychedelic Soul”. “Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 30, 1966 – “Get Ready” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #29 on the Hot 100 on April 2, 1966. Written and produced by William “Smokey” Robinson, it is the second R&B chart topper for the Motown vocal quintet. Written by Smokey Robinson in late 1965, he pens the song as a response to then current dance “The Duck”. The basic track is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on December 5, 1965 with The Funk Brothers providing musical support. Featuring Eddie Kendricks on lead vocals, The Temptations overdub their vocals on December 29, 1965. Having been the group’s main producer since early 1964, Robinson suddenly finds himself having competition. Norman Whitfield with petition for his chance to work with The Temptations. Berry Gordy only agrees to do so if the groups next Smokey produced single fails to crack the Top 20 on the pop chart. Released on February 7, 1966, “Get Ready” quickly soars to number one on the R&B singles chart, but surprisingly stalls at #29 on the Hot 100, leading to producer Norman Whitfield getting his first opportunity to work with The Tempts. Whitfield’s first single with the group, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” also top the R&B chart and peak at #13 on the Hot 100, becoming The Temptations main producer for the next seven years. Whitfield produces another version of “Get Ready” by rock band Rare Earth (also signed to Motown on the Rare Earth imprint) whose dramatic rock re-arrangement of the song hits #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June of 1970.

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On this day in music history: April 29, 1968 – “The Temptations Wish It Would Rain”, the sixth studio album by The Temptations is released. Produced by Norman Whitfield, William “Smokey” Robinson and Henry Cosby, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Mid 1967 – Early 1968. It is both the final Temptations album to include lead singer David Ruffin (who is fired from the group and replaced by Dennis Edwards), and the last to feature Smokey Robinson writing and producing for the group. The album spins off three singles including “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)” (#1 R&B, #13 Pop) and “I Wish It Would Rain” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop). “The Temptations Wish It Would Rain” spends three weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number thirteen on the Top 200.

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