100 Greatest Artists

68

The Temptations

Illustration by Anita Kunz

I was on holiday with my parents in the late Sixties when I heard "I Wish It Would Rain." I lived in England, where it fucking rains all the time, so it was appropriate. But that's also when I fell in love with David Ruffin's tenor — it jumped out of the speakers and ravished my soul.

Whether it was Ruffin or Dennis Edwards or Eddie Kendricks or Paul Williams singing lead, the Tempts were always an all-star vocal band. Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, the Tempts had an unprecedented string of hits: "My Girl," "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Just My Imagination." Later on, they broke ground with the psychedelic soul of "Cloud Nine." I remember listening to the high-hat rhythms on that record over and over with the guys in the Jeff Beck Group. We'd try to change every one of our songs to try and capture their drumbeats.

When I got home from holiday, I immediately bought Wish It Would Rain. At that time I was very much into folk music and turning the corner into R&B, and I'll never forget seeing that cover, with all the Tempts dressed as Foreign Legionnaires, sitting in the desert. Their outfits were wonderful — I blame them for teaching me to wear loud colors. They also came up with the cutting-edge dance routines. Nobody moved like the Tempts.

I'd later become friends with David Ruffin — when our bands would play in Detroit, Ruffin would come to every show and we'd sing "(I Know) I'm Losing You," a Temptations cover off my album Every Picture Tells a Story. His voice was so powerful — like a foghorn on the Queen Mary. He was so loud.

My children grew up loving the Temptations, and we tried to see them every time they came to town. They would always pick me out of the audience with a spotlight, trying to get me up to the stage. But I never did. I'm too frightened.

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