Otis Williams reflected on the start of what would become one of music and entertainment’s most legendary groups, The Temptations.
“We were teenagers when we signed with Motown in 1961,” the group’s founder, now known as Dr. Otis Williams, told the Black Press.
“Now, 60 years later, as I reflect on it all, I thank God first, and then [Motown Founder] Berry Gordy for signing us,” the icon remarked.
To celebrate The Temptations’ 60th anniversary, Motown/UMe announced the kickoff of a yearlong tribute to one of the most revered and prolific musical institutions in history.
The campaign, which will run through June 2022, features national and international concert tours, a new anniversary CD, video series, and other celebratory events.
With health officials lifting COVID-19 restrictions, the celebration also will include the October re-opening of the Broadway musical, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations,” based on Williams’ journey.
“Motown taught us, and all its artists, about show business. It was a special place and a special time,” Williams revealed.
“I am happy to be here still to pay homage to all my Temptation brothers, especially to Melvin, Paul, Eddie, and David. Our lineup put us on the map worldwide. I miss them all.”
“We went through a lot and lived through the dark struggles of the civil rights movement in the country in the ’60s too. Our music and our fans got us through it all and have kept me and The Temptations going all these years. And I’m so happy to be here still to celebrate this milestone anniversary.”
What began in Detroit in 1961, when a remarkable combination of soulful voices united, was the genesis of an epic journey that has introduced multiple superstars to the world and produced some of the greatest musical masterpieces in the Modern Era.
According to a news release, The Temptations signed their first contract with Motown on May 15, 1961.
At the time of the initial contract signing with Motown, the group members consisted of Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge Bryant.
By 1964, the group had evolved into what became known as the world-famous “Classic Five”—Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin, and David Ruffin.
“I’ve been blessed to take this journey with Shelly Berger, my manager, and dear brother, and with all my brothers-the Temptations,” Williams exclaimed.
“Now, to be the last one standing from the classic lineups can be hard sometimes, but I know God left me here for a reason, and that was to continue to share with new generations of fans the great music that we started back in that two-story house in Detroit, known as Hitsville USA.”
“Music is a universal language, and I know our music, throughout the years, has brought people joy, comfort, and sometimes even hope. I truly hope that was our greater purpose on earth. Some of the greatest moments in my life have been watching countless fans come together around any of our songs from different walks of life worldwide.
“Reaching this milestone in my career hasn’t always been easy, but it’s gratifying to know that our fans have always been there, every step of the way. I am truly grateful to each and every one of them. We plan to go back on tour later this summer and, me and my brothers, Ron Tyson and Terry Weeks, Temptations for the past 38 years and 24 years respectively, along with Willie Greene, Jr., and Mario Corbino, look forward to sharing this special anniversary with all of you.”
In a release, Shelly Berger, The Temptations long-time manager, added, “This is a landmark moment. We wish to thank the venerable Bruce Resnikoff for taking this journey with us and for years of unwavering support.”
“This trailblazing experience with The Temptations, and Otis in particular, is still exhilarating and rewarding sixty years later. To work with a group as gifted as The Temptations, I quickly realized early on that I was at the epicenter of music entertainment globally.
“Our journey together, throughout the group’s evolution, has been and continues to be a treasure trove of memorable experiences. The Temptations’ music is timeless, and Otis’ tenacity, genius, and vision have been the glue that has remained at the heart of the group since the very beginning.”
The Temptations story is undeniably a road map through American history.
The group’s distinguished heritage, influence, and contributions to African American and American culture in general and the global music landscape are awe-inspiring.
The Temptations were pioneers.
They were among the first African American groups on mainstream television programs in the 1960s.
The phenomenal television exposure popularized their music and, coupled with the support of DJs across the country, led to chart-topping success, not only on R&B lists but on Billboard Hot 100 charts.
On their renowned Motortown Revue bus tours during the height of the civil rights and voting rights movements, they often faced racism and discrimination first-hand, but they were not detoured.
Instead, they raised their voices with songs that were socially relevant in the country.
Many of those songs are still meaningful today. Their songs were also an inspiration to American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.
On concert tours, the Temptations are often welcomed by Military Veterans sharing stories about the inspiring effect of their music.
In the ’70s, the rising Black middle class fueled growth in arts and entertainment for Black artists, and The Temptations were among the groups at the forefront of that wave. Their influence on mainstream and global artists, such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, Annie Lennox, Jose Feliciano, and others, is notable.
Artists who have recorded Temptations’ songs these past 60 years read like a “Who’s Who” of the music recording industry. By the ’80s, The Temptations’ resilience is visible and singular. They launch a reunion tour that unites David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks with the lineup at the time and headline on the “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” network television special.
Before the decade concluded, they are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“We are blessed,” Williams stated.