Tag Archives: david ruffin

Remembering The Ghost Of The Greats

1-I woke up this morning to the sweet sounds of soul blasting from my radio that inspired and lifted my spirits immensely. Having been awakened to a new day in such a profound way. I decided to offer my remembrance to the amazing crooners, songstress’, prolific singer-songwriters and record producers who’ve transitioned to that wonderful place all of us wish to go. Their amazing talent must make-up the most amazing heavenly choir.

We know black music has influenced every sound or beat they every made and of course, as they have in much of world history they stole what was rightfully ours. So let’s take a moment and pay homage to the innovators and creators of such amazing music. I have said many things I cannot imagine a world without Motown or that of the great black music legends!

As I began to wondering what it must be like as the ghosts of the greats walk around heaven or wherever we go in the afterlife gathering for a concert to sing that music the meant so much to us in this life. The harmony must be simply amazing. When these great artists were alive and with us; black music – soul music – was awesome. Thankfully, they left us their gifts of sound for us to forever enjoy.

I’ll just name a few choir member that are walking around heaven all day: Whitney Houston, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Marvin Gaye, Billy Preston, James Brown, Etta James, Donny Hathaway, Isaac Hayes, Nic Ashford, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Tammie Terrell, Teena Marie, Levi Stubbs, Barry White, Grover Washington, Johnny Taylor, Bob Marley, Gerald Levert, Ray Charles, Maurice White, and Michael Jackson. Although it’s impossible to name them all – BUT WE MISS AND LOVE YOU!

Times were much difficult for black people because of your work. You added hope to our struggle and your souls brought out such creative music albeit from the secular world and the church – we were overjoyed. Today’s black artists do not know what it is to be innovative or create their own music, and if they do, they do not have what I know as soul, you hardly feel anything. The new generation started producing their music, often times, in such negative a way that it affects the black community in what I view as negative ways. Is it because they did not learn from the great artist that came before them or know what it means to be creative.

What I see and hear, for the most part, black music could be at the point of no return. Furthermore, the artists who are now deceased singing in that glorious choir in this place called heaven were originals who never imitated to gain fame. These days, you have a lot of imitators, and this is one of the main reasons why we have few black artists today that touch our souls.

Moreover or sadly is that the new generation of artists, for the most part, seem to have no knowledge of what soul music means spiritually or simply understand how to be original. So to the ghosts of the greats – Rest In Peace – you will be remembered for all times. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Black History: The Temptations

11(2)Some tunes stand the test of time, like “My Girl” and the same can be said about some groups. When you hear the melodies and incomparable classic of the Temptations today you immediately think of the greatest group of voices that ever sang a song.

The Grammy-Winning Temptations achieved their legendary fame as one of the most successful acts to record for Motown Records. It’s rare for someone to change the course of time but this group changed the face of music. Often imitated but rarely duplicated!

The original group included second tenor/baritone Otis Williams, first tenor Elbridge “Al” Bryant, bass Melvin Franklin, first tenor/falsetto Eddie Kendricks and second tenor/baritone Paul Williams (no relation to Otis). Among the most notable future Temptations were lead singers David Ruffin and Dennis Edwards both of whom became successful Motown solo artists after leaving the group. Other members included Richard Street, Damon Harris, Ron Tyson, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Theo Peoples, G.C. Cameron and about fifty members total over time.

The history of the Temptations started in Detroit the home of Motown Records around 1961 as the Elgins. Overtime, as members came and went the new members carried the torch with finesse for decades. I would say this was accomplished because of the group’s mantra was “no one member is bigger than the group” and although the lineup frequently changed their impeccable sound did not.

A Motown-centric biography on the Temptations would start pretty glumly. Success eluded the group at first. Working at Motown was a “Dream Come True,” but even that song didn’t bring lasting fame. In 1963, a violent scuffle between Elbridge Bryant and Paul Williams preceded “Al’s” exit. Enter David Ruffin whose weathered tenor injected intriguing angst into the sweetest songs.

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The Temptations with David Ruffin and new tunes by Smokey Robinson was the injection of magic and the just kept coming. The Kendricks led song, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” broke pop’s Top 20 and “My Girl,” 1964 became their signature. Meanwhile, Ruffin switched off with Kendricks at lead was like nothing that has come before or since.

Norman Whitfield, a rival producer, offered brawnier hits than Robinson’s, like “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” By the late ’60s, his collaborations with Eddie Holland, and Barrett Strong, had earned him exclusive control over the music of the Temptations.

The group developed its own recognizable style. The Temptations wardrobe ran the fashion gamut: tuxedos, capes, leather, linen, blues, limes, you name it. But the Tempts always looked sharp and fun in their costumes. Eddie Kendricks held some sway over this easy sophistication.

Under the direction of Broadway hoofer Cholly Atkins, the Temptations became renowned dancers, as well. Daily two-hour rehearsals ensured their movements were precise and spectacular enough to rivet fans from bare stages. Paul Williams’ choreography, including the Temptation Walk, oozed sheer erotic energy.

Onstage, group harmony ruled. Offstage, conflicts abounded, particularly between Ruffin and the others. Too much ego and flakiness cost him his membership in 1968. Though he released his own smash, “My Whole World Ended,” solo super-stardom was not meant to be.

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Enter, ex-Contour Dennis Edwards’ convincing vocals, new songs by the Temptations re-emphasized the ensemble. Whitfield’s ambitious “psychedelic soul” phase fused denser grooves with sociopolitical observations, helping fans dance and think at once. Commercially, the Tempts stayed put on “Cloud Nine.”

In 1971 brought both returns and departures after “Just My Imagination,” a throwback to their tender ballads. Exit Eddie Kendricks for a solo career and the disco-esque hits, “Keep on Truckin'” and “Boogie Down.” Exit Paul Williams died as a result of suicide. Two new tenors, Richard Street and Damon Harris gamely met the challenge and held their own against the older classics.

In 1975 things shifted from Harris to Glenn Leonard. Then from Dennis Edwards to Louis Price to Dennis Edwards (who’d leave and come back several times). Then from Motown to Atlantic in 1977, then back to Motown in the early ’80s. Just in time for a reunion tour with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks!

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Enter the great Ali Ollie Woodson who 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.” They soared once again with Ali!

In 1989, in flesh and in spirit, the six classic members shared the stage once more at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Smooth spokesman Otis Williams, beloved Batman fanatic Melvin Franklin, ethereally elegant Eddie Kendricks, dynamic David Ruffin, and hard-hitting Dennis Edwards all accepted the award post harmoniously for the late Paul Williams.

All I can say is thanks for the spirit of these great men for their contribution to the world. The Temptations will live for all times. Thank you fellas! And that’s my thought Provoking Perspective…

 


A Tribute To Black Music

5White folk use to call music sung by black performers race music as they pretended not to listen to it – but stole it for white artists to use; nonetheless. Since it is true that black people are the first people to make a sound, the drum has been the foundation of rhythm since the beginning of time. Music is a world all unto itself, and some say it is the greatest communicator.

If we were to go way back to the cradle of civilization eon’s ago; it all began with the drum. When the African was captured they brought the drum to the so-called New World; bringing the rhythms that dictated our souls. It is a fact that African American people are responsible for creating all of the great music genres; Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Soul, R&B, Rap, Hip-Hop, and just about every musical sound we hear directly speaks to our glorious past.

During the despicable era of slavery and segregation, before the Civil Rights Movement, the mystical sounds of gospel music delivered an in-your-face sound that fed the souls of black people and that outlet produced some of the most timeless music ever created. Before I go further, let’s remember that it was Michael Jackson whose music video was the first black music to air on MTV just a short while ago.

I want to pay special homage to a place that was just tiny little building in Detroit that became the Mecca of black music called Motown, also known as Hitsville that changed that world. Its existence was historic and game-changing – thanks to its founder Mr. Barry Gordy. Let’s be honest, can you imagine a world without “The Motown Sound”? For many who don’t know or have forgotten, before Motown Records rarely did you see the face of an African American on the cover of an album or black music heard on mainstream radio.

The music we enjoyed and others stole was called “Race Music.” As strange as seems music was segregated the same way America was prior to the 1960s at the time Motown was founded. Before Motown, few black performers enjoyed nothing close to crossover success. By the way, an album is what was used to play music before CDs.

Motown was the first record label owned by an African American that primarily feature black artists, and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound. It had a style of music with a distinct influence and soul touching flavor. From its Hitsville U.S. A building on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan served as Motown’s headquarters produced the most universally recognized stable of songwriters and performers of our time or any time.

The music produced by Motown made a nation of people living in this nation without a nationality proud with its awe-inspiring run of hits that spoke to the essence of our souls and from that tiny little basement studio. The world was introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band; just to name a few of the artists that graced our souls and touched our hearts making us proud.

Many of Motown’s best-known hits were written by Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield and the songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who became major forces in the music industry. For example, it’s a known fact in the music industry that in order to get a number one hit song someone would have to write more than thirty songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland had a string of more than fifty number one hits in a row with some becoming number one with several different artists like the hit “I heard it through the Grapevine”. This is profound and will never happen again. No songwriter will ever achieve this feat – guaranteed.

Although Mr. Gordy sold Motown, and it’s now in the hands of others, its legacy resides in a very special place in my hearts as well as millions around the world. So again I say, thank you Motown for the music, the love, the magic, and the many great memories.

Lastly, to the legends who are no longer with us to perform – thank you for your contribution – Rest in Peace. My guess is that they are walking around heaven all day singing with gleeful harmony the same way as it touched our souls when they were with us in this earthly realm. It must make heaven more glorious and wonderful than one could ever imagine. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Happy Birthday Flo: The Original Dream Girl

22Remembering Florence Ballard on the day of her birth! I thought about titling this piece “Supremely Floriffic” because she was the founding member of the original and most popular girl group The Supremes. Yet, history records her as “The Forgotten Supreme”.

Florence, Diana Ross and Mary Wilson grew up in the now demolished Brewster Projects of Detroit. To make a fascinating story short, after begging Motown Records founder Berry Gordy for work, they were hired to sing. They recorded a string of hits for Motown, which still stand as a museum on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit. Florence Ballard had a very soulful voice that added great harmony to the group.

Few Motown acts could be put into the same caliber as The Supremes. Some say the Beatles were the greatest group of that era, but I differ in that because almost any Motown act would amply fit in that category, if it were not for racism. You see most black groups of that era were restricted by their color to perform on what was known as the “Chitlin Circuit”. Until Motown, the work of black artists fell into a category called “Race Music”.

Regardless of the real reason or the reason you might believe for her dismissal. In 1967, Ballard was removed from the Supremes lineup and replaced her with Cindy Birdsong. Flo signed away, all her rights to “The Supremes”, for $139.804 in 1968, in a hush/hush meeting in the Northland Inn. After leaving the group, she signed with ABC Records in 1968 forging on an unsuccessful solo career.

It is presumed the 1981 Broadway musical Dreamgirls that chronicles a fictional group called “The Dreams” had a number of plot components that paralleled events in the Supremes’ career. The central character of Effie White, like Florence Ballard, is criticized for being overweight, and is fired from the group.

The film version of Dreamgirls released in 2006 features more overt references to Ballard’s life and the Supremes’ story, including gowns and album covers that are direct copies of Supremes originals. Jennifer Hudson won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her portrayal of Effie White. In her Golden Globe acceptance speech, Hudson dedicated her win to Florence Ballard.

As a member, Ballard sang on sixteen top forty singles with the group, including ten number-one hits. After being dropped from the label, Ballard struggled with many of life’s problems for a period of three years. Ballard was making an attempt for a musical comeback when she died of cardiac in February of 1976 at the age of 32. Ballard’s death was considered by one critic as “one of music’s greatest tragedies”. Ballard was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes in 1988.

On Friday, Feb 27th, almost 5000 people lined the street in front of the New Bethel Baptist Church to say goodbye to her. Diana Ross arrived and was booed by the crowd. The Reverend C.L. Franklin (Aretha’s dad) presided over the service. Members of the Four Tops, Marvin Johnson and Thearon Hill served as pallbearers and Stevie Wonder was an honorary one.

In the spirit of Black History I will not dishonor Flo’s memory with innuendo or any of the rumors that have circulated during and since her death. However, I will say this, not unlike many artists who live a soap-opera type career. She as well as many of Motown’s successful group lends credence to the old belief that great art comes from troubled lives. But even in the face of hardship their legend remains for all of eternity.Sleep well and rest in peace “Dream Girl”. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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A Salute To Motown Records

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We are the inventors and creators of the sounds that changed world cultures. If we were to begin way back in the cradle of civilization centuries ago, it all began with the drum. When we were captured and brought to the so-called New World, we brought the drum that dictated the rhythms souls. It is a fact that Black people are responsible for the great music known to the world as Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Soul, R&B, Rap, Hip Hop, and just about every musical sound we hear speaks directly to our glorious past.

During the despicable era’s of slavery and segregation, prior to the Civil Rights Movement the hallowing sounds of gospel music delivered an in-your-face sound that fed the souls of a people, and that outlet produced some of the most timeless music ever created. Before I go further, it was not unlike the days when they called our music “race music” and radio would not play it for white audiences; let’s remember that it was Michael Jackson whose music video was the first black music to air on MTV.

This brings me to the historic, game-changing, record label Motown and its founder Mr. Barry Gordy. Let’s be honest, can you imagine a world without “The Motown Sound”. For many who don’t know or have forgotten, prior to Motown Records rarely did you see the face of an African American on the cover of an album or black music heard on white radio. The music was segregated in the same way America was prior to 1959 when Motown was founded. Prior to Motown Records, few black performers enjoyed anything close to crossover success. By the way, an album is what was used to play music before CD’s.

Motown was the first record label owned by an African American to feature black artists, and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, which was a style of soul music with a distinct influence. From its Hitsville U.S. housed in a tiny building on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan that served as Motown’s headquarters producing the most universally recognized stable of songwriters and performers of our time or any time.

The music produced by Motown made a nation of people living in this nation without a nationality proud with its awe-inspiring run of hits that spoke to the essence of our souls.

It was from that tiny little basement studio where the world was introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band; just to name a few of the artists that touched our hearts making us proud. Oh, even Dr. Martin Luther King recorded and album at Motown!

Many of Motown’s best-known hits were written by Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield and the songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who became major forces in the music industry. For example, it’s a known fact in the music industry that in order to get a number one hit song someone would have to write more than thirty songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland had a string of more than fifty hits in a row with some becoming number one with several different artists like the hit “I heard it through the Grapevine”. This is profound and will never happen again. No songwriter will ever achieve this feat – guaranteed.

Although Mr. Gordy sold Motown, and it’s now in the hands of others, its legacy resides in a very special place in my heart, as I am sure with you and millions around the world. So again I say, thank you, Motown for the music, the love, the magic, and the many great memories.

Lastly, to the legends that are no longer able to perform for us today – thank you for your contribution – Rest in Peace. My guess is that they are walking around heaven all day singing with gleeful harmony the same way as it touched our souls when they were with us in this earthly realm. It must make heaven more glorious than I could ever imagine. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Heavenly Choir

I began my day thinking about my dear son who transitioned and left this life some years ago. I like to think he is always with me and through pray he knows this. Then as I read today’s paper and read a story about the condition of Bobbi Kristina and felt deeply saddened that it appears she will not recover. As I continued, I remembered all of the friends and family who have passed.

My grandmother loved music, and I began to wonder what it must be like in heaven where the ghosts of the greats gather to sing in that heavenly choir. The harmony must be simply amazing. When these great artists were alive and with us black music – soul music – was awesome. Thankfully, they left us their gift to enjoy forever.

Of course, there are far to many to list but I’ll name a few choir member that are walking around heaven all day: Whitney Houston, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, Billy Preston, James Brown, Etta James, Donny Hathaway, Isaac Hayes, Nic Ashford, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Tammie Terrell, Teena Marie, Levi Stubbs, Barry White, Grover Washington Jr., Johnny Taylor, Bob Marley, the Levert brothers, Ray Charles and Michael Jackson. YOU WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN, WE MISS YOU AND LOVE YOU!

Times were much difficult for black people, but the struggle brought out such creative music from the souls of these greats be it in the secular world and in the church. Today’s black artists do not know what it is to be innovative and create their own music, and if they do, they do not have what I know as soul, you hardly feel anything. The late 90′s and into the 21st century was the worst time in the world of soul music. New generations start producing their music, then it negatively affects the black community, because they did not learn from the great artist that came before them or know what it means to be creative.

What I see and hear, for the most part, black music could be at the point of no return. Furthermore, the artists who are now deceased singing in that glorious choir in this place called heaven were originals who never imitated any other music artists to gain fame. These days, you have a lot of imitators, and this is one of the main reasons why we have no more black artist with real soul that touch our souls when they sing.

Moreover, it appears that the new generations have no knowledge of what soul music means or even how to just be an original artist. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Soul Survivor Dennis Edwards

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On this day, I have decided to dedicate and pay homage to one of the voices of my favorite group of all-time – The Temptations. Come along as I stroll down memory lane remembering the sweetness of harmony that is realized when we think of the Temptations. We know the classic lineup change often, but the music remained true to the “Temps” style.

Those who know the group, know that the great David Ruffin was only a member for about four years. In that short period of time, he became a legend, and that classic lineup became virtually immortal. After his departure, they needed a replacement, and they turned to the perfect compliment. Dennis Edwards, an ex Contour, is truly underrated for his work taking the group in a different direction and to another level. Imagine, if you can, replacing a living legend. We could say that it was the Dennis Edwards era of greatness.

Dennis Edwards came to Motown in search of a solo career. Motown signed him on a retainer, in order to keep him from signing with another label. He was eventually slotted into the rough and rowdy Contours. Meanwhile, Otis Williams and Eddie Kendricks, having seen him as he dominated a Contours performance, figured he would be a perfect replacement for David Ruffin, whose showboating had gotten on the groups last nerve.

With the addition of Dennis came a whole new sound, thanks to the genius of Norman Whitfield. “Cloud Nine” would give Motown and the Tempts their first Grammy. For the next six years Dennis’ soulful shout would be heard on hit after hit, including “I Can’t Get Next To You”, “Don’t Let The Jonses Get You Down”, “Ball Of Confusion”, and, of course, Grammy winner “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”.

By 1975, the group became tired of the social conscious “message” songs and wanted to return to the love songs they so enjoyed. The Tempt’s left Motown for Atlantic and Jeffrey Bowen took over production, and as a result, A Song For You would turn out to be one of the group’s most satisfying albums, as well as proving the versatility of Edwards.

Longevity is something that is rare in the music business. The Detroit-raised Edwards, who moved to St. Louis in the 70s to be close to his mother, remarked in a recent interview “I never imagined I’d be one of the last ones standing, me and Otis… We really got caught up in the times, and how the heck did I make it? … I had a mother who prayed for me, and prayer changes everything.”

Dennis always wanting a solo career, left the group and cut a solo album for Motown. The album never materialized and after a short and humbling stint as a construction worker, Dennis rejoined the group, who had returned to Motown, for the triumphant release of Power, a Berry Gordy produced album.

During all this, Dennis finally did release his first solo album, Don’t Look Any Further, in 1984. It was a great album, the title song with Siedah Garrett being one of the great duets of the decade, but Dennis began having problems with drugs. A second album, Coolin’ Out, was released the next year but proved to be far inferior to the first. The title track was a moving and autobiographical piece on which Dennis sings about trying to put his life back together.

In 1987, Dennis would again return to Motown for the appropriately titled, Together Again. But in 1988, embattled by personal crisis, he left the group for good. In 1989, after talking with friends and former group mates Ruffin and Kendricks at the Temptations R&R Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. He united with the pair and the trio set off on a historic US tour. A couple of years later, the unexpected deaths of his good friends, Ruffin and Kendrick, left Dennis alone.

After those tragic events, he formed several groups attempting to use varying forms of the name “Temptations” that he had to battle in and out of court for use of some form of the name. Now, seventy years old, he continues to perform as Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Review pleasing audiences all over the world. No matter what the result, Dennis Edwards is a true “Soul Survivor”, and one of the most gifted singers of our time. He still has his sensuous and soulful voice, and no one can take that away.

By the merciful grace of God, he is the only one of the classic Temptations lead singers alive to continue the legacy and we are so blessed. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Twitter @ John T. Wills

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