Temptations Lead Singer Dennis Edwards Has Passed Away
Dennis Edwards was an unmistakable voice in R&B and Soul music. As a lead vocalist for The Temptations, he was greatly responsible for two of the Motown Records legends’ #1 hits: 1969’s “I Can’t Get Next To You” and 1972’s “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.” Today (February 2), Edwards died in Chicago, Illinois. He was 74 years old, just one day before his 75th birthday. At present, no cause of death has been made public.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Edwards joined the Detroit, Michigan Doo-Wop and R&B collective in 1968. The group had fired previous lead David Ruffin and needed a replacement. The group heard Edwards’ talents as a member of The Contours, another Motown-backed act who had opened for The Temps during 1967. Edwards and Ruffin were friends prior to the personnel shift. However, during the summer of ’68 move, Ruffin famously crashed several of his friend’s concert appearances with his new group. After Ruffin’s reconciliation failed, Edwards became a Temptation. Meanwhile, David launched his solo career.
Upon Edwards’ joining, the group adjusted its sound to the times. While Dennis Edwards’ on-record debut belongs to 1968’s Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations collaborative album, it was a month after “Cloud Nine” released. That single, later belonging to an album of the same name placed a group once rooted in Doo-Wop and Gospel-tinged Rhythm & Blues and drenched them in psychedelic Rock & Roll elements. Akin to Sly & The Family Stone in California, and a burgeoning Motown family member George Clinton, The Temptations merged Soul with Rock. The period featured Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong’s writing, with Edwards singing alongside founding members Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, joined by late ’50s additions, Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin. It was in this lineup and style that The Temptations won their first Grammy Award (also the first for Motown). The “Cloud Nine” single went to #6, a set-up for 1969’s #1 “I Can’t Get Next To You.” The group would uphold this sound through the early 1970s, before eventually pivoting to Disco.
Edwards remained with The Temptations until the group’s eventual split from the Motown family. During the 1980s, he re-joined for two stints. In the course of those solo years, Dennis released a record that is significant to Hip-Hop fans. 1984’s “Don’t Look Any Further” (Edwards lone Top 200 solo hit, belonging to an album of the same name) was just a couple years old when Eric B. & Rakim re-purposed its bassline for “Paid In Full.” Already with that rich Rap history, that same groove played party to the East Coast and West Coast beef. After Biggie Smalls and his Junior M.A.F.I.A. used the beat for the “Get Money (Remix)” by DJ Enuff and Lance “Un” Rivera, Tupac and Tha Outlawz would deliberately double up for “Hit ‘Em Up,” as produced by the late Johnny J.
Notably, Edwards and Ruffin (who died in 1991) sang together during The Temps’ 1982 reunion. The singer’s last album was 1993’s Talk To Me. In 2013, Dennis joined Otis Williams to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, with the children of their deceased band-mates.
During his life, he was briefly married to Ruth Pointer, a member of famed The Pointer Sisters since 1972. The two have a daughter, Issa Pointer who has been in the group since 2002.
In the last year, music has lost legends including Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, “The Funky Drummer” Clyde Stubblefield, Ohio Players’/P-Funk’s Walter “Junie” Morrison, David Axelrod, and Al Jarreau, among others.
Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to Otis Williams, The Temptations, as well as the family, friends, and fans of Dennis Edwards.