Dennis Edwards, Temptations Lead Vocalist, Dies

Who out there hasn’t been touched by the definitive male vocal group of the 60s, The Temptations? The band succeeded in captivating fans with their tight harmonies and their fine-tuned choreography for over five decades. Today the Best Classic Bands newsletter arrived in my inbox informing me of the death of Temptations’ lead vocalist Dennis Edwards.

As I read through the news, I thought I’d go ahead and snag the article, written by the Best Classic Bands staff, and post it here to share with you, in its entirety. I also put together a nice little Temptations playlist for your enjoyment, which you can find at the end of this post. Grab your headphones, turn up the volume and groove to what surely will be some of your favorites.

Dennis Edwards, Temptations Lead Vocalist, Dies


Temptations Lead Vocalist Dennis Edwards Dead One Day Shy of His 75th Birthday

This uncredited photo of Dennis Edwards accompanied Otis Williams’ tribute on the Temptations Facebook page on Feb. 2, 2018

Dennis Edwards, who was the first to replace one of the so-called “Classic 5” members of the popular soul vocal group The Temptations, died today (Feb. 2), one day before his 75th birthday. His family announced that Edwards died in Chicago, though no cause of death was revealed.

Edwards joined the Motown singing group in 1968, replacing original member David Ruffin, and sang lead vocal on many of their most popular hits including 1968’s “Cloud Nine” (#6 pop, #2 R&B), 1969’s “I Can’t Get Next to You” (#1 on both charts), 1970’s “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)” (#3 pop, #2 R&B) and 1972’s “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (#1 pop, #5 R&B).

Four of the original members of the group–Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin –predeceased Edwards. Only Otis Williams survives. On the group’s Facebook page, Williams wrote:

“We learned today with great sadness of the passing of our brother, Dennis Edwards. He is now at peace, and our love and prayers go out to his family. At this moment and always, we acknowledge his extraordinary contribution to The Temptations legacy, which lives on in the music. Temptations, forever.”

Watch the Temptations perform “Ball of Confusion”

In their long career, the group enjoyed 16 U.S. Top 10 pop hits and a whopping 45 Top 10s on the R&B chart. Their first hit was the 1964 song “The Way You Do the Things You Do” which reached #11 pop and R&B, with Kendricks singing lead. One year later, they scored their first #1 pop hit, “My Girl,” with Ruffin on lead vocal.

Along with Diana Ross & the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye, the Temptations were among the biggest acts for the label empire known as Hitsville U.S.A. (The Temptations’ recordings actually came out on the Gordy Records imprint.) Soon after, they were joined by the Jackson 5, the Commodores, and more.

In 1977, Edwards was fired from the Temptations. He returned in 1980 when they re-joined Motown after a brief, and unsuccessful run on Atlantic Records. He ultimately sang with Ruffin on the group’s 1982 Reunion album.

The Temptations–including Edwards–were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Edwards was born February 3, 1943, in Fairfield, Alabama, outside of Birmingham. The son of a pastor, he joined a gospel vocal group in his teens. In 1966, he signed with Motown, who briefly assigned him to the Contours. Within two years, he replaced Ruffin in the Temptations.

Edwards earned three Grammy Awards with the Temptations—Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group for “Cloud Nine” for 1968, and Best R&B Instrumental Performance and Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus for “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” for 1972. The Temptations were also honored with the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2013.


Watch the Temptations perform “I Can’t Get Next to You”

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And here’s a little playlist I put together of some favorite Temptations songs, most of which feature Dennis Edwards (although a few are from the time before Edwards joined the group in 1968, in which case David Ruffin is the lead vocals).
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What are your favorite Temptations songs?
Do you have a special Temptations memory?
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Check this out: This link was provided at the end of the article as a related tidbit so if you’re interested in all things Motown, you might be interested in this book from 2016:

Authors discuss their stunning Motown book

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7 thoughts on “Dennis Edwards, Temptations Lead Vocalist, Dies

  1. I saw the Temptations a long time ago with Diana Ross (man I’m old). We also just saw the current touring Temptations last year. They still sound pretty good. Sad when these legends pass. I think that’s what keeps us going to concerts. You never know…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Diana Ross and the Temptations? What a show that must’ve been!
      It is sad when these great artists pass on and 2017 was a terrible year for loss…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, their music sure takes me back. I saw them often on Soul Train and American Bandstand and talk shows and such. Great music … and a great era for music.
      Thanks for stopping by.


  2. I thought about doing a write up on the Temptations for my Monday post, but you’ve done a great job here, so I’ll just send people over. I hate that so many of our legends are dying. My nephew wrote a pretty good article today on his blog about keeping music alive and moving forward after an artist dies. You can read him here LINK

    See ya around Monday!

    Jingle Jangle Jungle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mary,
      Thanks so much for linking to my post here. I appreciate that!
      And thanks for sharing your nephew’s post with me, I just finished reading it and watching/listening to the videos. Wow, that was really cool seeing Dolores’ song sang in so many different styles in the video he shared.

      see ya ’round the 4M posts this week…
      Yay Eagles! 🙂


  3. Michele,

    Lovely tribute to a great R&B artist. The talent of yesteryear is slowly fading from this life to the next. Will future generations have truely great artists like us? I think not but thankfully these fabulous icons will live forever on this planet for all times to enjoy. Thanks for sharing!


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