On the Temptations.
Part 1: Thanks, Vanity Fair
. This month's issue of the magazine features an (all-too brief) oral history of Motown Records. It was fascinating to read the first person accounts of the early years of Hitsville
and Berry Gordy's successes. The vintage pics and current photos by Annie Leibowitz
of the surviving Motown roster are wonderful.
The article reminded me how much I adore the records that came out of Detroit's hit factory. Many of the songs had gotten so overplayed on "oldies" radio, that I had forgotten how amazing the singles were on their own merit. As a youngster, I really enjoyed Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and of course, the Jackson 5. In later years, I gravitated toward the grittier sound of James Brown and the Stax
label because their records felt fresher to my ears.
The real rediscovery was my love of the Temptations. I met the Temptations at the Charlotte airport coming home for Christmas as a freshman in college. I still have their autographs on a random piece of paper in my office. I can remember when I first moved to Los Angeles, I was really into them. I learned all of the vocal parts to their biggest smashes: Ain't Too Proud To Beg
, My Girl
, Just My Imagination
, and I Can't Get Next To You
. Each one of these cuts is legendary and we all know the words! The Tempts deserved to be part of the earliest Rock Hall induction classes.
So, I downloaded a bunch of Temptations records last night. Oh boy, they sound great. I blasted them on the stereo late into the night. The performances are brighter and more potent than I remembered. Get Ready
is playing on right now. Wow. Sing it, Eddie! There are tracks I got that I have never heard before. Now, that's fun to uncover great performances lost in the tidal wave of the Classic Hits.
Part 2: This week's Rolling Stone
has a spread on the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time
. FYI, the survey covers the Rock & Roll era, 1955 to the present. The musicians who were polled got it right for the most part. Each voter got to select their Top 20 which was then compiled into a list of the Top 100.
It's a crime though that Temptation Eddie Kendricks is missing from the list. [Steely Dan's Donald Fagen,
Harry Nilsson, Teena Marie, Boy George
and Rick James, also absent, would make my favorite 100.] I'm pleased that the voters recognized David Ruffin's
contributions. But it seems odd that they neglected to include Mr. Kendricks, whose falsetto performances are as equally influential as Mr. Ruffin's
iconic vocals. I'll drop Rolling Stone a line.
In the meantime, dig the sounds of the Temptations when you can. They really are the most amazing vocal group of all time. Without them, there's no Jackson 5, Sly & The Family Stone, Hall & Oates, Boyz
II Men, Bee Gees, etc. I'm going to crank them Tempts up again. Sorry, neighbors. Don't Let The Joneses Get You Down
Peace & Psychedelic Soul