BWW Interview: Otis Williams Keeps The Temptations' Name Alive
Surviving. A rock band and a television show may have named themselves after the concept and Gloria Gaynor may have sung about it. For the last 50 years, Otis Williams and the Temptations have lived it out.
The Temptations bring their cavalcade of hit songs and dance moves at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts (100 W. Dublin-Granville Rd. in New Albany) 8 p.m. Thursday, January 16 as a part of a series of shows across the United States and Europe.
But please don't call the current journey "a tour," Williams says. A tour implies there's a beginning and an end. The Temptations' road show keeps on going and going.
"We consider ourselves more of a working group than a touring one," Williams says. "A tour sounds like you're gone for x amount of months and then the tour is over. We just work continuously year in and year out.
"It can be (exhausting) but you have to love it. The traveling's rough but there's nothing greater than to get out there and see our fans. They're happy to see us and they're waiting to hear those songs again. That makes up for all the traveling."
January will mark the 54th anniversary of the Temptations. Williams, who penned the hit "Treat Her Like A Lady," is the only original member of the Temptations, joining Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon, and Bruce Williamson in the current lineup.
The original lineup includEd Williams, Elbridge "Al" Bryant, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams (no relation to Otis) when the vocal groups the Distants and the Primes merged together. In 1964, Bryant was replaced by David Ruffin and the quintet became one of Motown's biggest hit-making machines.
From 1964-71 when Ruffin left the band, the Temptations hit the top spot on the R&B charts 11 times with such classics as "My Girl (1965)," "Get Ready (1966)," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg (1966)," "I Know I'm Losing You (1966)," "I Can't Get Next to You (1968)" and "It Was Just My Imagination Running Away With Me (1971)."
In the post Ruffin-Kendricks era, the group continued to crank out hits including "Papa Was Rolling Stone (1972)," "Masterpiece (1973) and "Happy People (1974)."
The Temptations were introduced to a whole new generation of fans in the 1980s when "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" were featured on the BIG CHILL (1983) soundtrack. The Temptations and Smokey Robinson were the only groups to have two songs on the original soundtrack. The band was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's fourth class in 1989 with the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and Dion among others.
Their last original hit, "The Motown Song (1991)" with long-time fan Rod Stewart" peaked at 10th on the U.S. charts. Fittingly, the song was tribute to the classic Motown sound and the cartoonish video took jabs at some of the pop chart titans of the 1990s like Michael Jackson, Sinead O'Connor and Vanilla Ice.
Williams says he's not surprised that the music of the Motown era still draws in fans.
"All of our songs were made 40 or 50 years ago but they're still timeless," Williams says. "Everybody at some point and time can relate to it. I would like to think that from the womb to the tomb, every guy wants to have someone they refer to as "My Girl.'
"There are no vulgarities in it. We don't come out with our pants hanging down or grabbing our crotch to entertain people. I'm not knocking the bands that do that. One man's scorpion is another man's fish. We're old school but we still relate to what's going on now."