EDDIE KENDRICKS, 1939-1992 A Founding Voice Of the Motown Sound
By Wayne Robins. STAFF WRITER
EDDIE KENDRICKS, who died Monday of lung cancer, will be remembered for his forceful-yet-elegant falsetto singing with the Temptations vocal group which was one of the cornerstones of the Motown sound. Kendricks, 52, had been hospitalized since the end of last month. He died in Birmingham, Ala., where he was raised. He moved to Detroit around 1960 with another Alabama native named Paul Williams, with whom Kendricks sang in a group called the Primes. In Detroit they got together with singers Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin and performed briefly as the Elgins. Another singer named David Ruffin joined the group, which recorded for Berry Gordy's fledgling Motown label. Renamed the Temptations, the group hit the charts in 1964 with "The Way You Do The Things You Do," the first of many pop-soul standards written for the group by Motown's prolific singer, songwriter and executive William (Smokey) Robinson. "Although the Temptations were being spoken of as a group with five lead singers, Eddie Kendricks' sweet lead on `The Way You Do the Things You Do' established him as one of the central voices of the group," the critic Vince Aletti wrote in the biographical notes for "The Temptations 10th Anniversary Album." Early Temptations hits such as "The Girl's Alright With Me," (co-written by Kendricks) and "I'll Be in Trouble" revolved around Kendricks' impressive falsetto, which carried an emotional jolt without affectation. Kendricks sang on virtually all of the Temptations' hits through the 1960s, including the classics "My Girl," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You." The success of many of the Temptations' records was based on the contrast between Kendricks' joyous-sounding high voice and David Ruffin's grittier intonations. "They were able to exploit this versatility brilliantly . . . using Kendricks for happiness, Ruffin for heartbreak, and occasionally pulling out all the stops and letting them trade leads," wrote Geoffrey Stokes in "Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll." Kendricks remained with the group through its late 1960s psychedelic-soul phase, and in 1971 left for a solo career. As a solo artist, Kendricks had mixed luck. Two of his early 1970s recordings, "Boogie Down" and "Keep On Truckin'," had the driving beat and extended instrumental breaks that would eventually become commonplace in the disco era. But much of Kendricks' material was second-rate. He remained an influence on other performers - the Bee Gees' falsetto attack was strongly based on Kendricks' vocal approach. And his style had a palpable effect on the popular white-soul duo Hall and Oates.
Copyright 1992, Newsday Inc.
Wayne Robins, EDDIE KENDRICKS, 1939-1992 A Founding Voice Of the Motown Sound. , Newsday, 10-07-1992, pp 51.