Learning about the history of the popular Motown group.
National Standards: 7, 8, 9, 11
Prepare: Have the class read Icon: The Temptations (page 16 of the student edition). The article provides a brief history on the career of the Temptations.
Listen to a playlist of some of the Temptations’ biggest hits:
Key points in the article:
- The Temptations were originally formed of two popular Detroit vocal groups. They scored their first hit in 1964 with “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”
- Towards the late ’60s, the group began recording edgier soul rock music, a contrast to their early pop/doo-wop sound.
- In the early ’70s, the group went through a few lineup changes when Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams left. They returned in the ’80s for a reunion album and tour.
- Otis Williams remains the sole surviving original member. The group was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and won a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
Begin: Discuss how the Temptations became one of Motown’s most popular groups. Topics might include:
- The influence of producers Smokey Robinson and Norman Whitfield
- Their versatility in adapting from pop to soul-rock
- The persisting popularity of hits like “My Girl,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and “Just My Imagination”
Develop: Play the following video of the Temptations performing “My Girl” live in the mid-’60s:
Play the following video of the Temptations performing their first GRAMMY-winning hit, “Cloud Nine,” in the late ’60s.
Compare and contrast the two performances. Topics may include:
- The difference in musical style: conservative pop sound of “My Girl” v. aggressive soul-rock edge of “Cloud Nine”
- Similarity in unified outfits and choreography
- Difference in Dennis Edward’s (lead vocalist on first verse) vocals in comparison to David Ruffin’s lead vocal on “My Girl”
Apply: Have students take a short quiz to test their knowledge on the Temptations. Click here to take the quiz.
Note: Correct answers appear in bold below. Answers appear in random order for students.
Question 1: Which Temptation did not belong to the “classic five” lineup?
-Elbridge “Al” Bryant
Question 2: Which early hit became the Temptations’ signature song?
-“Just My Imagination”
-“The Way You Do the Things You Do”
-“Ball of Confusion”
Question 3: Which Temptation assumed a bigger role as the group’s lead singer under the direction of producer Norman Whitfield?
Question 4: Which song won the Temptations—and Motown—their first GRAMMY?
-“Stop the War Now”
-“Runaway Child, Running Wild”
Question 5: In the early ’70s, which two original Tempts left the group?
-Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams
-Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin
-Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin
-David Ruffin and Paul Williams
Question 6: In the late ’70s, the Tempts tried to adapt to which genre, unsuccessfully?
Question 7: In the 1980s, the Temptations…
-were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
-had a No. 1 album
-had a No. 1 hit single
-were replaced by all new members
Question 8: Today, ____________ remains the sole surviving original member as the group continues to tour and record.