By Larry Buford
Sentinel Contributing Writer
Motown’s original Temptations had five members, but musician Cornelius Grant became commonly referred to as the “sixth Temptation” – much like music historians refer to Billy Preston as the “fifth Beatle” – for his contribution as bandleader and songwriter.
Born in Fairfield Texas, Grant – a musical prodigy – was transplanted in Detroit at age 15. Early in his career at Motown he directed the music for Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye. Eventually he became the Musical Director of the Temptations; a position he held for nearly twenty years. He co-wrote the blockbuster, “(I know) I’m losing you” for the group (a song which has been covered by many [most notably Rod Stewart and Rare Earth]); as well as other favorites like “You’re My Everything” (Temptations), and many more hits for such artists as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Martha Reeves, Rose Royce, Edwin Starr, Marvin Gaye, The Commodores, The Jackson Five and Stevie Wonder. Grant remembers: “I was practicing my fifths on my guitar and producer Norman Whitfield happened to hear me and said ‘hey do that again’ and the next thing I knew I was doing the intro on ‘Losin’ You’ with David Ruffin on lead vocals…it was magic!”
On Friday February 11th at the Downtown Los Angeles Marriott Hotel, Grant and his production team kicked off a Pre-Grammy event called the “Skoole Awards” to honor and salute the old school pioneers whose life’s work have made a significant difference in the entertainment industry, in our nation, and throughout the world. Says Grant: “We have all been elevated by the passion and endurance of others who opened doors, laid down musical greatness, or lifted us up in the magic of cinema. Way too often such pioneers and trail-blazers are forgotten, unsung, undervalued, and under-appreciated.” He views the Skoole Awards, as a way to pay homage to performers from the past with a purposeful selection process of honorees from each decade spanning the 1950’s to the present.
After a hearty welcome and moment of silence for the fallen by radio pioneer Lee Bailey, awards were presented posthumously to Harvey Fuqua (The Moonglows); Gladys Horton (The Marvelettes); and Junior Walker whose band The All Stars were the highlight performers for the occasion. Accepting the award for Horton (who just passed away in January) was her son Vaughn Thornton; and for Walker, his son Derek Walker. Recipients also included groundbreaking writer/editor Ruth Adkins Robinson, General Hospital writer and Emmy winner Michelle Valjean, and Carl Wilson, lead singer of the popular R&B group The Vibrations. Wilson and Grant told the story of how the famous Temptation Walk was “stolen” from The Vibration’s routine.
Wilson quipped: “Out of all the groups that could have stolen our routine, I’m glad it was the mighty Temptations!”
Upon receiving her award, an emotional Robinson said: “There is a long list of people who did not get recognition at Motown…Cornelius knows how it feels to be unsung.”
Founder and publisher of Jam Source Magazine, Carolyn Baker, who flew in from Texas for the occasion said, “It was truly a great event!”
Others in attendance included Founder and Editor of BRE Magazine Sidney Miller, Solid Gold dancer Darcel Wynn; Maxi B. of the Mary Jane Girls; Motown pioneer Roosevelt “Bucky” Smith; and The Temptations’ Otis Williams appearing on video who stated, “Cornelius you’re doing a fantastic job!”
For more information about the Skoole Awards visit at www.corneliusgrant.com
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub.) www.amazon.com. Visit the author at www.editorialbylarry.com