was among the many soul legends who did his part to put Motown on the map. The expressive vocalist (who often sang in a falsetto), born Edward James Kendrick, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, but it was Detroit's Motown label that made him a star.
. After moving from Alabama to Detroit,
With a lineup that included former Primes
and Paul Williams
, and former Distants
members Otis Williams (who was unrelated to Paul
), Melvin Franklin
, and Elbridge Bryant, the Temptations
signed with the little-known Motown subsidiary Miracle. The Temptations
, who went through many personnel changes over the years, didn't become successful right away, but by the mid-'60s, they had become huge thanks to such smashes as the Kendricks
-led "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and "My Girl." The group enjoyed one mega-hit after another in the mid- to late '60s, including "The Girl's Alright with Me" and "Get Ready." Kendricks
also did a little songwriting and created many of the group's vocal arrangements.
By the time the Temptations
scored their 11th number one R&B hit with "Just My Imagination," Kendricks
had left to pursue a solo a career. Many fans questioned the wisdom of his leaving such a successful group, but he proved to be quite viable as a solo act thanks to early-'70s singles like "Keep on Truckin,'" a number one R&B hit, and "Boogie Down," which went to number two on the R&B chart. Other noteworthy solo hits followed, including "Shoeshine Boy," "Get the Cream Off the Top," "Happy" in 1975," and "He's a Friend" in 1976. Most of his solo albums came out on Motown, although Kendricks
recorded for Arista and Atlantic during the late '70s and early '80s. By that time, however, his popularity had decreased considerably. The singer wasn't heard from much in the '80s, though in 1985, he did participate in the Artists United Against Apartheid's Sun City project and recorded Live at the Apollo with Daryl Hall, John Oates, and Temptation
partner David Ruffin
. Two years later, he and Ruffin
released an album for RCA.
Sadly, the '90s would see the premature deaths of no less than three former members of the Temptations
. First, Ruffin
died of a cocaine overdose in 1991, followed by the deaths of Kendricks
in 1992, and Melvin Franklin
(from a brain seizure) in 1995. (Tragedy was nothing new to Temptations
members: Paul Williams
had committed suicide back in 1973). Kendricks
was only 52 when he died of lung cancer in his native Birmingham on October 5, 1992.