Tag Archives: Temptations

Happy Birthday Smokey Robinson: A Musical Genius

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nThe prolific singer-songwriter William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. is the most  prolific entertainer of our lifetime. A thousand years from now you will hear Smokey’s music. To prove my point, “My Girl” first recorded by the Temptations is timeless, and the recording sounds as fresh today as it did in 1965. Smokey is also a record producer, former record executive, and one of the founders of the music label that changed the world – Motown.

Robinson is most notable for being a songwriter, sure, but he was also the founder and front man of The Miracles, for which he also served as the group’s chief songwriter and producer. Robinson led the group from its 1955 origins as The Five Chimes until 1972 when he announced retirement from the stage to focus on his role as Motown’s vice president.

Smokey was born in Detroit and raised in the city’s North End section. At one point, he and Diana Ross were next-door neighbors, which he had known since she was eight. He later told reporters when he was a child; his uncle christened him “Smokey Joe”, which he assumed was a “cowboy name for me” until he was later told that Smokey was a pejorative term for dark-skinned blacks. He once said that he remembers his uncle saying to him, “I’m doing this so you won’t ever forget that you’re black.”

In August 1958, Robinson met songwriter Berry Gordy, who had recently stopped writing songs for Jackie Wilson after getting into a royalty dispute with Wilson’s label. Gordy took an interest in Smokey and his group to which Gordy was more impressed at the fact that Robinson was a writer than as a singer. Gordy agreed to work with them and with his help the Matadors released their first single. Following this, the group changed its name to The Miracles after Claudette Rogers replaced Emerson Rogers.

After a number of failures and difficulties with money, Smokey suggested to Gordy that he start his own label, which Gordy agreed. Following the forming of Tamla Records, later reincorporated as Motown, the Miracles became one of the first acts signed to the label. In late 1960, the group recorded their first hit single, “Shop Around”, which became Motown’s first million-selling single. Between 1960 and 1970, Smokey would produce 26 top forty hits with the Miracles.

By 1969, Robinson had voiced his opinion on wanting to retire from the road to focus on raising a family with wife Claudette and their two children, and to focus on his duties as Motown’s Vice President. However, the late success of the group’s track, “Tears of a Clown”, caused Robinson to stay with the group until 1972. Robinson’s last performance with the group was on July 1972 in Washington DC.

After a year of retirement, Smokey announced his comeback with the release of the album titled “Smokey” in 1973. The album included the Miracles tribute song, “Sweet Harmony” and the hit ballad “Baby Come Close”. That same year, former Beatle George featured the track “Pure Smokey” as a tribute to his idol. In 1974, Robinson’s second album, Pure Smokey was released but failed to produce hits.

Robinson answered his critics the following year with A Quiet Storm, released in 1975. The album launched three singles – the number-one R&B hit “Baby That’s Backatcha”, “The Agony & The Ecstasy” and “Quiet Storm”. With his nearly sixty years in the music industry, he is still one of the most respected and gifted musicians to grace the stage or play the game.

Try to imagine, what the world would be like if we had never been blessed with the legend known by the name – “Smokey” – we love you and thank you for paving the way. God Bless you and that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…

 


Remembering Eddie Kendricks

2I am one of the Temptations biggest fans but most would agree that every woman who ever heard the sweet tenor voice of the man known simply as “Eddie” was in love with this man. He was a man with the sweetest and silkiest tenor voice of any man to sing a tune.

His persona was quiet and cool, with a voice that made women drool. The tall, lean and handsome tenor from Union Springs, Alabama was little more than eighteen when he arrived in Detroit, the town where he would eventually find fame as a member of the Motown super-group, The Temptations.

Eddie arrived in Detroit along with childhood friends Paul Williams and Kell Osborne. Together they formed a classic vocal group they called The Primes. Their tunes extended beyond the usual teenage Doo-wop tunes to include sophisticated material such as that of the Mills Brothers. So it was natural, or maybe fate, when Otis Williams first saw The Primes perform he couldn’t help but notice the vocal prowess of Kendricks, and the smooth moves of Paul Williams.

When the Primes disbanded, and all three members separated, Eddie came back to Detroit from Birmingham to visit Paul; he put in a phone call to Otis. The timing was perfect since Otis just happened to have two spots to fill in his group, The Distants. Paul and Eddie added a whole new dimension to his group’s sound, and the merging of the two groups became the Elgins. Now, they were ready to audition for Berry Gordy.

The audition went well, and the group was offered a contract right on the spot. It was 1961, but the group wouldn’t have their first hit for a few years. Meanwhile, the group worked hard on their singing, their moves, and their look. Eddie always dressed beautifully; he had a knack for being sharp and hip, but classy at the same time so his job in the group would be wardrobe, and he began putting together the group’s stage uniforms.

The group continued recording on a regular basis with either Paul or Eddie leading on all the early songs, but none of the 1962 singles did much, including the unique “Dream Come True”, and “Paradise”. Both tunes featured Eddie’s vocals, and they are appreciated today, but at the time they didn’t even make the pop chart.

In early 1964, David Ruffin joined the group, and coincidently things began to change. Smokey Robinson told the group he’d booked the studio for them to record a song he’d written with Bobby Rogers, one of the Miracles while driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That night the five of them met at Eddie’s house and set out on the familiar walk over to Hitsville. The song, “The Way You Do The Things You Do”, was charming and perfect for Eddie’s voice. It was like a dream, finally; the song would peak at number 11 on the pop chart, and the group went off on their first full Motortown Review tour.

Before the year was over, the guys knew that success was not only possible, but probable, and they would get their share of good times and beautiful women, and Eddie, as it would turn out certainly had the power to attract women. Eddie was ahead of his time in picking the clothes, although the guys at first objected to some purple suits he had chosen. Otis thought the suits would make them look like pimps, but in the end they trusted his judgment and he ordered five purple suits with a white button. He was right, when the crowd saw them in those suits; they went absolutely wild.

In 1965, Smokey Robinson, who was writing mostly all of their material, turned his attention away from Eddie momentarily to hand over to David Ruffin who sung their big breakthrough hit “My Girl”. The song would hit number one and stay there for eight weeks. Over the next few years, many of the songs would be cut on David, but Eddie would not be left behind either.

In 1966, Smokey would hand Eddie the song “Get Ready”, but it didn’t do as well as the songs Norman Whitfield wrote with David in mind, such as “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Norman’s song did much better on the charts, and shortly thereafter, Norman Whitfield would begin writing and producing the group almost exclusively. David would get most of the leads, but Eddie would still have his chance to shine.

The guys were tight and hung out together at one another’s houses where Melvin would cook up a pot of beans and cornbread. Eddie loved cornbread so much the guys playfully nicknamed him “cornbread”. As time passed, and David Ruffin was dismissed in 1968, Eddie changed, upset with the attitudes of some of the group members, he formed an alliance with David outside the group. In the late 1960’s, times would change and so would Norman’s material. Eddie still preferred the harmonious love songs and wanted to do some of his own material separate from the group. The group said no, and Eddie became even more dissatisfied.

It was after a performance at the Copa in 1970. Eddie walked out after the first show, and it was decided, mutually, that it was time for him to leave the Temptations, and so he did, leaving them with one of their all time biggest hits. Eddie went on to have a very respectable solo career and later toured with David and Dennis until the end of his life.

Eddie’s legacy is profound and establish him as one of the greatest Temptations. On October 16, 1999, Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park was dedicated to the Birmingham native. The memorial features a bronze sculpture of Kendricks by local artist Ron McDowell, as well as sculptures of the other Temptations, set into a granite wall. Inscribed on the granite are the names of Temptation’s hit songs. Recorded music can be heard throughout the park, featuring songs by Kendricks and the Temptations.

I will say this: Eddie left the world a lot of music that others are trying to imitate and duplicate! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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Happy Holiday From Me To You

On this day that I am so blessed to share, I want to send my best wishes to you and your families. If I had one wish, it would be that there would be no more murders of unarmed black people. Also, I want to ask that you say a prayer or take a moment of silence for the many Black Lives who are not with us on this day as a result of being killed at the hands of the new Nazis, the American terrorists.

I have lost a child and know the pain and emptiness of those parents are feeling. Therefore, I ask that your prayers also go out to the parents too.

In my mind, it is not really Christmas until I hear the lovely melodic sounds of the Temptations sing this Christmas song. Finally, I want to send much love, from my heart, and to say that I appreciate your support, for reading and following THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVES…

Happy Holiday!


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

The Godfather Of Rock and Roll

It is a great joy to share with you the glorious past of the ghost of the greats whose shoulders we stand that are dear to my heart. I am proud to share this article because I love the story of the crossroads. It is a story about the great Delta Blues-man Robert Johnson. The history of music is littered with tragic figures, and none was more tragic than Robert Johnson’s story.

This amazing, ultimate star-crossed musical genius laid the early framework of rock and roll decades before that term was even imagined. Robert Leroy Johnson is among the most famous of all the Delta Blues musicians whose landmark recordings from 1936-37 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and tremendous songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life, and violent death at age 27 have given rise to much speculation adding to his legend.

He is considered by some to be the “Grandfather of Rock-and-Roll,” his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style influenced a range of musicians, including Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon. Eric Clapton called Johnson “the most important blues musician who ever lived.

Johnson was conceived in an extramarital affair and born in Hazelhurst, Miss., in 1911. Most of his biographical details have been lost to history, but what’s known is that he learned guitar in his teens, got married, and had a girl who died in childbirth. The death led Johnson to throw himself even deeper into his music. He fled to Robinsonville, Miss., where he was influenced by early blues legends Son House and Willie Brown.

By 1933, Johnson remarried and began playing the guitar professionally. He once related the tale of selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his talent. Johnson tells the story in his song “Crossroads Blues.” Playing for tips up and down the Delta, Johnson gained in popularity. But as he grew in fame, he became a noted philanderer. He would also walk off in the middle of performances and not be seen or heard from for weeks at a time.

In 1936, he was put in contact with Columbia Records talent scout Ernie Oertle, who took him to San Antonio, Tex., where Johnson recorded classics including “Sweet Home Chicago,” “There’s A Hell Hound On My Trail,” and his signature “Terraplane Blues.”

Johnson began to tour nationally and became known for his unique voice and halting guitar rifts. But in 1938, as the legend goes, the devil caught up with him. While playing at a juke joint, he flirted with a woman whose husband became jealous, and the man laced Johnson’s whiskey with strychnine. Although he became violently ill, Johnson played until he collapsed. He died four days later at age 27, although conflicting stories say he survived the poisoning and died later of pneumonia.

There are at least two Mississippi gravesites that bear his name leaving questions about his passing and burial. “The reason that it’s so powerful a story is because it is the outline of the tragic side of the music that followed,” said music journalist Alan Light. “Some knew him as a musician, others by legend, but his shadow touches everyone who came out of that time and place.” I will say that Robert Johnson is truly a legend whose legacy will last forever. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

FaceBook @ John T. Wills


Last Days In Time

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I came across this thought provoking video, thank to a FaceBook page, and was compelled to share the message. America as great as it is faces a multitude of concerns that are imperative to the nation’s survival. Many of which, but not limited to, the most serious concerns are structural and coming from within.

If compared to America’s relation to time, about two and a half centuries, this system of government is relatively new and a very young experiment in democracy. The rise and fall of nations is a common as the change of seasons. With greed and division among the people; does the Universal God need to intervene and correct the situations but our so-called leaders cannot. 

The government is neglecting its citizens in every area that pertains to living and has forgotten that we are first human. Second, we are the engine of this system that makes up the American society. We the people fund the government that benefits the plutocrats and oligarchs. We have become a nation of “haves and have not’s”!

Could we be living in the “Last Days In Time”. We get caught up in a multitude of issues that really have nothing to do with critical issues facing the citizenry. Listen to the speaker who voices a compelling assessment and in his view there is a real possibility that THE END IS NEAR!

What do you think?

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The Gathering

2Did you get your invitation from James Crow Esq. to attend the 21st Century Citizens Counsel gathering the Good Ol’ Boys call CPAC? No, I didn’t get one either, but I heard it was a “Yee Ha” kinda weekend!

I will be upfront and say that I have called the Good Ol Boys (GOP), like most, many things and coming from a time where I have seen this movie before; I think my assertion is fair. I will try to capture the essence of what the rightwing nuts and the frightening Republican candidates represented as they continued clinging to a version of reality unique to a world alien to sane people.

Last weekend the conservatives paraded their best spokespeople to advance their cause, and if they were trying to make a good impression on each other and observant voters, they failed miserably because it was nothing but the same. No, actually it was worse! I saw racism and bigotry that went back to the days of segregation, if not the Civil War.

The show or ignominy hosted the usual daily recapitulation of crazy to comprehend the conservative conclave’s purpose was to put on a torrid display of groundless anti-Obama rhetoric based on the roster of speakers. One by one, their so-called best and brightest fired up the crowds preaching that America’s salvation is steeped in religion, austerity, guns, and voiding the federal government. The speakers each reiterated that Republicans lose elections because the GOP failed to articulate conservative’s values and not that voters rejected conservative extremism.

22In essence, what they said was “We don’t need new ideas. The idea is called America, and it still works” and it revealed to Republicans, extremism defines America, and voters are out of touch with America. The list of characters represented fanaticism at its finest with the same cast of character; Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Sara Palin, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan rambling on about America’s demise stemming from voter’s rejecting conservative ideas. Many of the gang, marquee spokespersons, came to lay the nation’s woes at the feet of President Obama.

It seemed to me that these so-called patriots favored the Russia President of the American President. Another highlight of the event was “Obama-Care”. Only this time, they did not accuse president Obama of killing grandma but did not hold back on anything else. I would be remised if I did not mention the only Negro in the room – the doctor. It is amazing that every year the find “one” and let me just say for the record black people did not clear him!

The only thing I did not hear from this group that I heard in the past years was – how grateful we should be to have been dragged onto the shores of this great land and given food and shelter to cheers and applause from the crowd.

CPAC was an extremists’ dream, and they brought out the cream of the conservative crop to parrot extremist rhetoric. I still say, because I have a memory of history where we saw the extreme lynch, murder through the use of terror, African Americans could not drink from the same water fountain, trampled and beaten by people of this ilk. In fact, Rand Paul is on record say if he were a Senator he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act. This sounds to me a lot like what this mean when they say they “want their country back”.

The most memorable, however, was Caribou Barbie’s rendition of a twisted fairytale rendition of a Dr. Seuss like story.  If I could make a comparison to this the 2014 gathering, it was more like a Star Wars bar scene gone wrong. People the 2014 elections are not far away and dare I say – Be afraid, Be very afraid. If any of these people are elected God Bless America! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


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