Ali Ollie Woodson was born Ollie Creggett on September 12, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan. He is remembered for his one of a kind soulful gospel rooted voice and as the lead singer of the greatest vocal group of all time; The Temptations.
He was the lead singer on such classic tunes; “Treat Her Like a Lady,” Sail Away, and “Lady Soul. I was blessed to have met and known this gentle soul in the mid 1970s and until a few years before his passing our paths would cross, which was always a pleasure. I can recall telling him that he was known the world over, yet he made me feel as if I was his best friend. It was always like we just spoke yesterday.
Ali was not an original member of the Temptations, which had several lineup changes since it started in the 1960s. But he played an integral part in keeping the Temptations from becoming just a nostalgia act. I would refer to him as the Temptations Temptation. I mean this in the sense that by the early 1980s the Temptations were no longer posting hit after hit as they had in the 1960s and ’70s with songs like “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.”
Enter Ali Woodson! The group had lost original members, and Ali was brought in to replace Dennis Edwards, whose voice had defined the group in the 1970s. He added a distinctive flavor to the group during his tenure that was like a playful stamp on several Temptations’ standards with his tricky punctuation, sassy humor and inventive acrobatics. I say this with great reverence because he could do a David Ruffin better than David Ruffin.
In a review of a concert featuring the Temptations and the Four Tops in 1985, Stephen Holden of The New York Times described Ali as “a charismatic young pop-funk singer with a husky, agile voice that breaks into unexpected falsetto riffs.” Frankly, I have yet to find a singer of any era comparable to the elegance of his sound. If you heard him sing – you loved what he sung!
Ali went on the road at the age of 19 with Bill Pinkney who gave him a job as a musician and then vocalist for the Original Drifters in the early 1970s. He would return to lead The Original Drifters’ gospel song “True Love” in 1996 on the CD “Peace in the Valley” (Malaco). He always referred to Pinkney as his Father in the music business and sang “Walk Around Heaven All Day” at Pinkney’s home-going service in July 2007.
Most don’t know it but when Teddy Pendergrass left Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes it was Ali who got the call. He was called upon throughout his career to be the voice to accompany many of the great artists. But he was most notable for being lead singer of the Temptations from 1984 to 1986, and from 1988 to 1996. He first recorded with The Temptations in 1983 on their “Back to Basics” album, when he was invited to perform lead vocals on the album track, “Stop the World Right Here (I Wanna Get Off),” filling in for an exhausted Dennis Edwards. The following year, he replaced Edwards and officially became a Temptation.
He began his tenure in the group on a high note with a song he co-wrote, co-produced, sang lead, and played keyboards on the 1984 Temptations single “Treat Her Like a Lady”. A song that appeared on his first full album with the group “Truly for you” and was a #2 hit on the U.S. R&B charts. He continued to compose and sing lead on other moderate hits with The Temptations throughout the mid-1980s, up until his first departure from the group in 1987.
However, he would rejoin the group the following year and remained with them up through their 1995 album For Lovers Only. Since leaving the group, Woodson began a solo career and often toured with a Temptations-like revue called Ali Ollie Woodson & the Emperors of Soul and the Temptations Revue featuring Dennis Edwards. His last tour was with none other than the Queen of Soul – Aretha Franklin – and I think that says it all. I have lived long enough to know that it is rare and only once in a lifetime that God gives us an Ali Woodson. I am honored and truly blessed to have known him.
In the Temptations movie David and Eddie would say “we were the voices.” With all due respect, Ali should also be called one of “the voices”. Rest In Peace my friend and that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…