Realizing the importance of changing with the times, Norman took the group in another new, somewhat funky direction. "Cloud Nine" was the first song of what critics called their "psychedelic phase". Everything about the song, the lyrics, and the instrumentation patterns were a total departure from the usual Motown sound, it was perfect for the gritty, less polished voice of Dennis Edwards. The song was a big hit and brought Motown it's first grammy award. Despite the ups and downs, 1968 ended on a strong note for the group with the TCB television special they did with The Supremes. About a year later, they taped a second well-received special with The Supremes called G.I.T. on Broadway, for NBC. The big hit in 1969 was the intensely soulful "I Can't Get Next To You", in which each of the Tempts had different lines to sing, the best of many ensemble songs Norman would write for the group. Eddie devised the choreography on this one, from a stiff-legged dance he'd seen his kids doing around the house.
In 1971, things would take a tragic turn for Temptations fans. Member Paul Williams' health began failing. Eventually, it became necessary for the group to travel with a tank of oxygen for Paul, and Richard Street was brought in as back up, often having to sing Paul's part from behind stage. Fights between the group's members were becoming more common, their nightly prayer had become a thing of the past. Eddie Kendricks was unhappy with the direction the new songs were taking, preferring instead, the harmonious love songs from the earlier years.
Eddie would leave the group on the wings of one of the groups biggest hits, his first lead on a hit in three years! Eddie would stay up most of the night laying his vocals on the track, to produce the gossamer ballad "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)". The song reached number one and and remained there for a couple of weeks in the early spring of 1971, but by that time Eddie was gone.
Meanwhile, Paul Williams condition worsened. Afflicted with sickle cell anemia, combined with drinking and personal problems would result in his departure from the group in the early part of that same year and his tragic suicide in 1973 from a self inflicted gunshot wound.
When Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams departed from the group, with them went the magic. Their replacements were excellent singers. Damon Harris, who followed the very brief tenure of Ricky Owens, was a fantastic singer, and the only one, I think, that truly does sound like Kendricks, and Richard Street, one time member from the early days, and more recently stand-in for Paul Williams, was also a great singer. Despite all that, the classic Temptations, as we knew and loved them, were gone for good, aside from a brief period in 1982, when, to the delight of fans, Ruffin and Kendricks returned for Reunion, which also included all five of the current Tempts; a tour followed, but problems with Motown, as well as personal differences, cut Ruffin and Kendricks' tenures short.
No matter how you measure it, the original line-up can never be recreated or replaced. No one will ever sing "My Girl" like David Ruffin, and no one will ever sing "Just My Imagination" like Eddie Kendricks.
Nearly 40 years have passed since the creator waved his wand over five talented young men on the front lawn of the "Hitsville" building. Little did they know, they would play a part in changing history.
Since then, there have been 19 "Temptations." Otis Williams is the only living member of the original five and he continues with success today. However, with the deaths of original members Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams and David Ruffin, the exclusion of longtime member Dennis Edwards, and only Otis Williams left from the original lineup to carry the torch, "The Temptations" can only be a new group with an old name. Temptations bandleader Cornelius Grant calls the original group "a spiritual thing. People got redeemed . . . listening to those guys sing. It was almost angelic in a way." As anyone who knows anything about soul can tell you, the spirit never dies.
NOTE: Although this website is about the six 1989 R&R Hall of Fame Inductees, I am including a link to the Damon Harris Website. because I think he deserves mention. Like his idle before him, Damon now suffers from cancer.