It’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Grammy Lifetime Achievement double header featuring The Temptations and The Four Tops.
THE FOUR TOPS
The quartet, originally called the Four Aims, made their first single for Chess in 1956, and spent seven years on the road and in nightclubs, singing pop, blues, Broadway, but mostly jazz—four-part harmony jazz. When Motown’s Berry Gordy Jr. found out they had hustled a national “Tonight Show” appearance, he signed them without an audition to be the marquee act for the company’s Workshop Jazz label. That proved short-lived, and Stubbs’ powerhouse baritone lead and the exquisite harmonies of Fakir, Benson, and Payton started making one smash after another with the writing-producing trio Holland-Dozier-Holland.
Their first Motown hit, “Baby I Need Your Loving” in 1964, made them stars and their sixties track record on the label is indispensable to any retrospective of the decade. Their songs, soulful and bittersweet, were across-the-board successes. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” a no. 1 R&B and Pop smash in 1965, is one of Motown’s longest-running chart toppers; it was quickly followed by a longtime favorite, “It’s The Same Old Song” (no. 2 R&B/no. 5 pop). Their commercial peak was highlighted by a romantic trilogy: the no. 1 “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” (no. 2 R&B/no. 6 pop) and “Bernadette” (no. 3 R&B/no. 4 pop)—an extraordinary run of instant H-D-H classics. Other Tops hits from the decade included “Ask The Lonely,” “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over),” “Something About You,” “You Keep Running Away,” “7-Rooms Of Gloom” and their covers of “Walk Away Renee” and “If I Were A Carpenter.” The group was also extraordinarily popular in the U.K.
After H-D-H split from Motown, producer Frank Wilson supervised the R&B Top 10 hits “It’s All In The Game” and “Still Water (Love)” at the start of the seventies. The Tops also teamed with Motown’s top girl group, the Supremes, post-Diana Ross. Billing themselves The Magnificent Seven for a series of albums, they hit with a cover of “River Deep - Mountain High.”
When Motown left Detroit in 1972 to move to Los Angeles, the steadfast Tops decided to stay at home, and with another label. They kept up a string of hits with ABC-Dunhill for the next few years: “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got),” a Top 5 hit; the Top 10 “Keeper Of The Castle”; and the R&B Top 10’s “Are You Man Enough (from the movie Shaft In Africa),” “Sweet Understanding Love,” “One Chain Don’t Make No Prison” (later covered by Santana), “Midnight Flower” and the disco perennial “Catfish.”
In 1980 the group moved to Casablanca Records. The following year they were at no. 1 again, with “When She Was My Girl,” making them one of the few groups to have hits in three consecutive decades. They also scored R&B Top 40s with the ballads “Tonight I’m Gonna Love You All Over” and “I Believe In You And Me,” the original version of the 1996 Whitney Houston smash. And the Tops were heard in the film Grease 2 with “Back To School Again.” By 1983, riding the wave of the company’s 25th anniversary celebration, the Tops were back with Motown and H-D-H. The reunion resulted in the R&B Top 40 hits “I Just Can’t Walk Away” and “Sexy Ways.”
They signed with Arista later in the decade, and there they racked up their final solo Top 40 hit, “Indestructible,” which was the theme of the 1988 Summer Olympics. That year they also partnered with Aretha Franklin, a longtime friend from Detroit, for the Top 40 R&B “If Ever A Love There Was.” During this period, Stubbs stepped out and gained notoriety for voicing the man-eating plant Audrey II in the film musical Little Shop Of Horrors, for which he sang the cult classic “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space.”
In 1990, with 24 Top 40 pop hits to their credit, the Four Tops were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Though they would no longer have hits on record, the group continued to be a hit in concert, touring incessantly, a towering testament to the enduring legacy of the Motown Sound they helped shape and define. Following Payton’s death in 1997, the group briefly worked as a trio until Theo Peoples, a former Temptation, was recruited to restore the group to a quartet. When Stubbs subsequently grew ill, Peoples became the lead singer and former Motown artist-producer Ronnie McNeir was enlisted to fill Payton’s spot. In 2005, when Benson died, Payton’s son Roquel replaced him.
For Rolling Stone’s 2004 article “The Immortals – The Greatest Artists Of All Time,” Smokey Robinson remembered: “They were the best in my neighborhood in Detroit when I was growing up (and) the Four Tops will always be one of the biggest and the best groups ever. Their music is forever."
The Temptations, often referred to as “American Music Royalty,” are world-renowned superstars of entertainment, revered for their phenomenal catalog of music and prolific career. The group will be celebrating their 60th Anniversary in 2021. To mark this milestone, the Temptations are planning a brand-new album, a national concert tour across the country, and an international concert tour in the UK in fall 2021.
Named the “#1 R&B/Hip Hop Artists of All Time” and one of the “125 Greatest of All Time Artists” by Billboard magazine, as well as one of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by Rolling Stone Magazine, the group is truly a beloved national treasure.
The Temptations’ heritage, influence and contributions to, not only American culture and African American communities but also to the global music landscape are monumental. The influence that the Temptations have had on mainstream and global artists is undeniable.
The group’s popularity is ever-increasing and they are one of the most iconic, bestselling brands in the entertainment world today. While the group has evolved over the years, Dr. Otis Williams has continued to lead the group and carry the torch forward for the next generation of Temptations’ fans.
The Temptations are currently the subject of the smash hit Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, which opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on March 21st, 2019. The musical received 12 Tony nominations and won the Tony Award for Best Choreography at the 73rd Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 10, 2019. It has already captivated thousands of theater-goers during sold-out performances on Broadway. At year-end of 2019, Ain’t Too Proud had broken the house record at the Imperial Theatre for a second time. The week ending December 29th the musical had the highest grossing week in the history of the Imperial Theatre. In June of 2019, the show’s producers announced plans for a touring production of the musical to tour more than 50 cities in 100+ weeks, dates to be announced.
Also in 2019, the original cast album for the smash hit Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations was nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Best Musical Theater Album” category.
In addition to the musical, the Temptations’ journey, as seen through the lens of Dr. Otis Williams, the sole surviving original Temptation, was also a blockbuster television mini-series which aired in 1998. The mini-series, Temptations, which was produced by long-time Temptations’ manager Shelly Berger, Dr. Otis Williams, and Suzanne de Passe, head of de Passe Entertainment, was reportedly viewed by 45 million fans when it originally aired, and went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Direction for a Mini-series or Movie, as well as the 1999 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Television Movie or Mini-series. The mini-series continues to air on cable networks today.
In 2018, Universal Music Enterprises (“UMe”) released worldwide the Temptations’ latest studio album, All the Time, which was the group’s first new album in eight years. It was released in CD, vinyl LP, limited edition white vinyl LP and digital formats. It features three new, original Temptations songs, in addition to inspired renditions of songs from Maxwell, The Weeknd, Sam Smith, Bruno Mars and others.
At the time of the album’s release, Dr. Otis Williams, founding member of the Temptations said, “…Looking back, I never could have imagined where my life has taken me. I’m proud of what the Temptations have achieved, and I’m grateful for every opportunity we’ve been so fortunate to receive. The music carries me. Together, we lift our voices with love and wonder…”
The group’s 60-year history spans both the 20th and 21st centuries and their music transcends generations. The Temptations’ story is a road map through American history. What began in Detroit, when a remarkable combination of soulful voices united, was the genesis of an epic journey that introduced multiple superstars to the world and produced some of the greatest music of our era.
Considered trailblazers in the 60’s, leading the way, not only for themselves, but for other R&B artists and successfully reaching mainstream audiences here and abroad, the Temptations’ rise to fame was meteoric. When the legendary “Classic Five,” (Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and David Ruffin) released the single, “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” in 1964, which peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Chart and remained on the list for 11 weeks, it marked the beginning of a multitude of award-winning and chart-topping songs and albums that would be embraced by popular music audiences globally. It was on March 6, 1965 that their first million copy bestselling single, “My Girl” hit #1 on Billboard’s Pop chart. Their roles as artists and how they used their voices to speak to the times they lived through, especially during the 60’s-one of the most turbulent decades in our nation’s history, is compelling.
They were among the first African American musical artists to crossover into mainstream America and appear on popular, national mainstream television programs, such as The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Hollywood Palace. The group’s star power was so striking that these top-rated, national programs, and many others, scheduled appearances for the Temptations multiple times during a single year. At the time, this was an unparalleled accomplishment for African American entertainers.
On December 9, 1968, Diana Ross & The Supremes and the Temptations headlined a network television special TCB (Taking Care of Business), a first for two African American music groups. According to published reports at the time, the special won its time slot, was the top-rated television variety show in 1968 and received an Emmy nomination. The original cast soundtrack album, TCB, was released a week prior to the special and reached #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums’ chart. In July 1969, Motown put together a major television special for the group called The Temptations Show. In November of that same year, a third national television special, G.I.T. (Gettin’ It Together) on Broadway, starring Diana Ross & The Supremes and the Temptations aired, and according to published reports won the primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design. An accompanying soundtrack album by Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations was released in advance of the television special. The Temptations helped change the face of primetime television and fueled the growth in the performing arts and entertainment world for African American artists forever.
The Temptations, throughout the group’s evolution, have produced 53 Billboard Hot 100 Hit singles, including four that became #1 Pop singles: “My Girl,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” Additionally, they released 43 Top 10 R&B hit singles, 14 of which were #1 R&B hits, including timeless classics such as “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” and songs influenced by their funk/psychedelic soul sound including “Happy People,” and “Shakey Ground.” The group also has 16 #1 R&B Albums. The Temptations’ music, then and now, continues to raise the spirit of the country and uplift a nation searching for common bonds and glimmers of hope and humanity.
The Temptations are the recipients of numerous awards and honors. They have won four Grammy Awards (and have received nine Grammy nominations), in addition to being awarded the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards (2013). The Temptations received their first, as well as Motown’s first, Grammy Award at the 11th Annual Grammy Awards (1968) for the “Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group, Vocal or Instrumental,” for their song, “Cloud Nine.” They won their next two Grammy Awards at the 15th Annual Grammy Awards (1972) for the #1 Billboard Hot 100 Hit, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” which won a total of three Grammy Awards that year: “Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus,” awarded to the Temptations; “Best R&B Instrumental Performance,” awarded to the Temptations and Paul Riser, and “Best Rhythm Blues Song,” awarded to Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield as songwriters. The group won their fourth Grammy Award at the 43rd annual Grammy Awards (2000) for their “Top 20” R&B Album, Ear-Resistible for the “Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance.” “My Girl” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” was inducted a year later in 1999.
In 1974, the group was the very first to be awarded “Favorite Soul/R&B Band/Duo/ Group” at the inaugural American Music Awards. In 1975, the Temptations recorded their album, A Song for You, that won the 1976 American Music Award for “Best Soul/R&B Album.” The album includes two wildly popular and bestselling #1 R&B songs, “Happy People,” (co-written by Lionel Richie) featuring the Commodores as instrumentalists, and “Shakey Ground” featuring instrumentals by Parliament-Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel with Billy “Bass” Nelson. In August 1998, the Temptations released the album, Phoenix Rising, featuring the debut of Terry Weeks, a lead vocalist for the group then, and now, and it won the Soul Train Music Award for “Best R&B/Soul Album by a Duo or Group (1999).” The single, “Stay,” from that album became a “Top 30” R&B single.
In 1983, Ron Tyson, one of the group’s current lead vocalists, joined the Temptations. In May of 1983, the televised anniversary special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, aired on NBC-TV and the extraordinary battle between the Temptations and the Four Tops led to a road tour of the two groups, famously called the “T’NT” tour. The two legendary groups still perform together today while on their respective concert tours.
In 1988, Dr. Otis Williams’ critically-acclaimed autobiography, Temptations, written with The New York Times bestselling author Patricia Romanowski, was published nationally. The book went on to become the source for both the Emmy Award-Winning television mini-series, Temptations, in 1998 and the smash hit Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, with Tony Award-Winning choreography and Grammy-Winning music.
In 1989, The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Blockbuster #1 hits “Just My Imagination,” “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone,” and “My Girl” are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” The group was also inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999, and into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. They were invited back to the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2017 to receive “The R&B Male Group of the 20th Century” Award. They received the NAACP Image Award “Hall of Fame Award” in 1992.
On September 14, 1994, the Temptations were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California, and on June 7, 2019 given a star on the Apollo Theater’s Walk of Fame in Harlem in New York City. At the official ceremony, Dr. Otis Williams received a plaque marking the occasion on behalf of the legendary, classic five lineup. Dr. Otis Williams was also honored at the Apollo Theater’s 85th Anniversary Gala on June 10th, 2019.
In 2003, and again in 2012, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked the group’s album Anthology, originally released in 1973, one of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
In 2006, Dr. Otis Williams received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Stillman College, a Historically Black College/University in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2006.
In 2018, the Library of Congress announced the induction of the Temptations’ classic mega-hit, “My Girl” into the National Recording Registry.
In November of 2019, the Temptations appeared on Billboard’s 125th Anniversary list of the “125 Greatest of All Time Artists,” in music.
In addition, for the 2019 holiday season, Universal Music Enterprises, the Temptations’ current recording company, released a first-of-its-kind, animated video featuring the Temptations’ “Silent Night,” one of the most popular holiday songs of all time.
On March 24, 2020 Tantor Media, a division of Recorded Books, released the audiobook edition of Dr. Otis Williams’ critically acclaimed autobiography, Temptations, written with The New York Times best-selling writer Patricia Romanowski. The audiobook includes a never-before-released introduction and a newly revised final chapter. Dr. Otis Williams narrates the new introduction and J.D. Jackson, an AudioFile Golden Voice Award winner, who narrated Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made by David Halberstam, narrates the book. The audiobook is available in CD, Mp3 and digital formats. In June of 2020, the Temptations released, a message for our times, a new, soulful version of “You’ve Got a Friend,” as a YouTube video. The group raised their voices in the video to reflect on their 60’s struggles and pay tribute to today’s movement for change. The video was recorded in a private session in Los Angeles, California. In July of 2020, the Temptations were among the award-winning stars to perform in the 40th anniversary presentation of A Capitol Fourth, the national July 4th TV tradition on PBS.
Next year, 2021, there will be incredible excitement around the 60th anniversary celebration of their legendary history and music. The Temptations are planning to record a new album with brand new, original songs, and are looking forward to their concert tour across the country. They are also scheduled to do a UK concert tour in the fall of 2021.
During Christmas 2021, the Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations will go back to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where it ran in previews.
Dr. Otis Williams, the sole surviving original Temptation, Ron Tyson, a lead vocalist with the group for 37 years, Terry Weeks, a lead vocalist for 23 years, Willie Greene, Jr., bass vocalist with the group for four years, and Mario Corbino, who joined the group this year, always look forward to serenading fans with their soulful voices, lighting up stages with their famous Temptations’ Walk, and bringing joy to audiences of all ages.