April 2016

Icon: The Temptations

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.

Answer Key
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
-David Ruffin
-Eddie Kendricks
-Otis Williams

Question 2: Which early hit became the Temptations’ signature song?

-“My Girl”
-“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?

-David Ruffin
-Eddie Kendricks
-Dennis Edwards
-Paul Williams

Question 4: Which song won the Temptations—and Motown—their first GRAMMY?

-“Cloud Nine”
-“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?

-Soul rock

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.

-Otis Williams
-Eddie Kendricks
-Paul Williams
-Dennis Edwards