Dennis Edwards, off-again-on-again lead vocalist of The Temptations, passed away on Friday at the age of 74. According to his family, the soul singer was in Chicago at the time of his death, just one day ahead of his 75th birthday.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1943, Edwards was originally with The Contours. He joined The Temptations after they fired David Ruffin in 1968, replacing Ruffin’s falsetto with Edwards’ grittier, lower register. Edwards’ presence helped guide the group towards a more soulful, bluesy sound that led them to their most successful tenure at Motown. He recorded with The Temptations from 1968 until 1976, appearing on such songs as “Cloud Nine”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today”, and “Don’t Let the Jonses Get You Down”. The former two tracks scored the group Grammys.
When The Temptations left Motown for Atlantic in 1976, Edwards parted ways with the group — for the first time. He rejoined them when they returned to Motown in 1980, singing on that year’s hit “Power”. When Ruffin came back in 1982, Edwards stayed on, turning The Temptations into a seven-man group. They had another hit record with that year’s Reunion, featuring the Rick James-produced “Standing on the Top (Part 1)”. He left again in 1984, attempting to launch a solo career that spawned the hit “Don’t Look Any Further”, a duet with Siedah Garrett. Hip-hop fans may be familiar with the song via its sampling by Eric B. and Rakim on “Paid in Full”, 2Pac on “Hit ‘Em Up”, and Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s Notorious B.I.G.-featuring “Gettin’ Money”.
Edwards returned to The Temptations in 1986 for a brief stint before his final run from 1987 to 1989. That year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with five other members of the group. Later in life, he teamed with Ruffin and former Temptation Eddie Kendricks for a tour called “Tribute to the Temptations”. The use of the band’s name sparked a legal battle between Edwards and Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin, two members who actually owned the Temptations name. An injunction was put in place in 1999, though Edwards was still able to tour under the name The Temptations Review with Dennis Edwards.