The Temptations are a veritable hit machine. With a repertoire that includes sweet, smooth and unforgettable tunes like “I Wish it Would Rain,” the renowned Motown act has helped create the soundtrack to American life.
They did it by the numbers, earning three Grammies, four No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and 14 top-selling R&B singles.
Temptations alum Dennis Edwards chalks their success up to the music’s universal themes.
“We sing about things that never grow old, like the love between a man and a girl, the love between a man and a woman,” he said.
Fans who are dying to hear the songs live and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” are in luck, because the Temptations Review Featuring Dennis Edwards will be stopping by Reno’s Atlantis Casino Resort Spa on Jan. 23.
The name calls for some explanation.
The Temptations were founded in Detroit in 1960 and by 1964 had solidified as the “Classic Five” lineup of Otis Williams, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin.
Lead singer Ruffin had a growling baritone that, paired with pitch-perfect material like “My Girl” (1964) and “Don’t Look Back” (1965), helped put the Temptations on the map. He’d developed a cocaine addiction, though, and was said to have become difficult and erratic. In 1968, the group decided to replace him and pegged Edwards for the job.
Edwards was a Temptation for a decade straight -- trading off on lead vocals on hits like “Cloud Nine,” “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” -- as the group made forays into the funk and psychedelic genres. He continued to play off and on with the group through 1984.
Nowadays, Williams has the legal right to tour under the name the Temptations. Edwards performs songs by the Temptations under the moniker the Temptations Review.
The arrangement came after a heated court battle between the two musicians, but they have since rekindled their friendship.
“He’ll call me to tell me he loves me, and I’ll call him to tell him I love him,” Edwards said in a recent interview with his hometown newspaper the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Their bond includes a shared understanding of what it means to be the last living members of the original Temptations.
When the legendary Motown group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, Williams and Edwards were joined at the podium by Ruffin, Kendricks and Franklin. Paul Williams, who died in 1973, was honored posthumously.
By the time the Temptations were tendered a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2013, only Williams and Edwards were there to climb the podium.
“At times like that I think, wouldn’t it be so wonderful if all of us were still alive?” Edwards said. “Life is so precious, such a pleasure. You need to cherish every moment you have.”
Back when he was at Motown, he didn’t always understand the impact of the music he was recording and performing. Over the years, though, fans have made sure he gets it.
“People come up to me all the time,” he said. “Men who were in Vietnam will say, ‘I listened to the Temptations and it got me through.’ Someone else will say, ‘We made our first and second baby off your music.’”
Motown Founder Berry Gordy Jr. kept a tight ship, Edwards said of those hit-making days.
“Mr. Gordy would say, ‘You have to be classy.’ He’d say, ‘Wear shiny suits, don’t curse, say yes, sir and no, sir and act like gentlemen. That stayed with us our whole career,” he said.
As the Temptation Review harmonizes, accompanied by an orchestra, the quintet continues the tradition of dressing in sharp suits. They also still accompanying their songs with gliding dance moves.
“We still kick, we just don’t kick as high,” Edwards joked. “Sometimes after I hit it real hard, I’ll take a seat for a moment. My voice never gives out but sometimes my legs say, ‘What are you doing?’”
Dennis will be 73 this February, and has a living legacy to prove it. The proud patriarch has five sons and one daughter along with 16 grandkids and five great-grandchildren. Four of his kids live near his St. Louis Missouri home, so he gets lots of family time.
He’s made a few changes in recent years. The band doesn’t have the same punishing tour schedule Edwards used to keep and he has dialed back the partying considerably.
“The body changes,” he said. “I used to do a show and then stay up all night and then get ready for another show. Now someone will call me and say ‘Where’s the bar?’ and I’ll say, ‘I’ve got to get up at five in the morning!’”
Edwards eats right and exercises so he can keep doing what he loves.
“When I do a show, I give my all,” Edwards said. “Put me on stage and I’ll do my best. I hate to see entertainers do a show and act tired and act like they don’t want to be there.”
His dedication pays off as the Temptations Review continues to draw fans, old and new.
“We get good crowd of people,” Edwards said. “They’ll bring their kids and their kids will bring their kids. We’ll have three or four generations.”
Edwards said music is quite vital now, with a lot of great young musicians carrying the torch. Still, he’d like to see them take note from the Temptations when it comes to presenting a positive message of love and respect.
“Let’s get our country back to what it used to be,” he said. “A lot of young guys get up there and they don’t understand the power of fame. They don’t know how much of a difference you can make when you have 10 million fans.”