Although his name was not as well-known as it used to be, Eddie Kendricks was an exceptional vocalist with a unique soulfulness. He was also a co-founder the TemptationsHe was a singer on many of the songs that earned them their nickname of Emperors of Soul. His smooth falsetto would go on to be featured on many of his other hits. Eddie was just 52 years old when he died from cancer.
In the golden era of the Temptations’ rise to preeminence at Motown, Kendricks’ light, acrobatic voice was the perfect foil for the gritty tones of the group’s other chief lead singer, the equally brilliant David Ruffin. Eddie had the distinction of singing lead on the Tempts’ first chart single, 1962’s “Dream Come True,” and the first R&B No.1 that came right after it, “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” As stylish in person as on record, he was behind many of the striking wardrobe choices that made the group even more glamorous.
Kendricks was the one who had led on such memorable highlights before he left in 1971. their songbook as the pacy “Get Ready” and their collaboration with the Supremes, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” He also had key roles in the multiple-vocal Norman Whitfield productions that gave them an exciting new sound in the late 60s, especially when he delivered the title line of “Ball Of Confusion.”
Tensions within the group led to Kendricks’ departure, but he went out in glory, with the melodic, dreamy narrative of the 1971 US pop and R&B chart-topper “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me).” After a run of modest chart entries at the outset of his solo career, he delivered a superb one-two punch of No.1s in 1973 with “Keep On Truckin’” and “Boogie Down,” in a run of nine consecutive R&B top tenners that also included another bestseller, “Shoeshine Boy.”
His success was less in later years. Motown left him in 1978. Ruffin, however, returned briefly to the Temptations fold in 1982 for a tour and an album. Reunion. Produced by Tamla star later Rick James, it included the exhilarating hit featuring Kendricks, Ruffin, and one of their successors, Dennis Edwards, “Standing On The Top.”
The 80s also brought Kendricks and Ruffin together with their great admirers Daryl Hall & John Oates, co-starring on 1985’s Live at The Apollo album. Eddie and David made an LP together for RCA in 1988, before being part of the Temptations’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year. Kendricks was diagnosed with lung cancer and fought it for over a year before he died in autumn 1992. He will be remembered for his role in the shining era soul music.
“Unless a singer produces himself he has to portray the producer,” he said in an interview with Disc In 1973. “Which means sometimes what you’re doing isn’t really you. But I feel if my voice remains distinctive, then that really doesn’t matter. The main thing is always to keep your identity.”
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