Once a Temptation, always a Temptation, and certainly our temptation.
the only remaining lead singer of this trio.
Born Feb. 3, 1943 in Birmingham, Alabama, where his father was a minister, Dennis began singing in church at two years old. Dennis moved with his family to Detroit when he was 7 years old. At the Detroit Conservatory of Music he studied piano and composition, and sang with a gospel group called the Crowns of Joy. He later formed a soul-jazz band called Dennis Edwards & The Firebirds. Edwards had hopes of becoming a Motown solo artist but instead Motown kept him on retainer eventually placing him in the Contours in 1967 to replace Joe Stubbs, brother of Four Tops Levi Stubbs.
Dennisâ lead vocals were featured on “Itâs So Hard Being A Loser” and “I Didnât Have to (But I Did)”. However, releases and interest were dwindling and the group fell apart in the early seventies.
Meanwhile, Temptations lead singer David Ruffin was missing gigs and showing up late for shows. Temptations members Otis Williams and Eddie Kendricks had seen Dennis perform at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. while Dennis was still with the Contours and thought his soulful gritty voice and strong presence would make him a perfect replacement if David did not straighten up.
His style was a little rougher and grittier, but he was a showman with real command of the audience. It was David Ruffin who initially came to Dennis late one night and told him that the Tempts would ask Dennis to replace him in the group. Dennis was both surprised and also reluctant. They drank and cried until the wee hours of the morning and David convinced him that he would prefer it to be Dennis as his replacement than anyone else. And so it was, the next day the Temptations asked Dennis Edwards to join the group as David Ruffinâs replacement.
The public got itâs first look at the newest Temptation in July 1968 at the Forum in Los Angeles. The Tempts did the first half of the show with Eddie, Melvin, Paul, and Otis, then brought Dennis out for the last half. But David could not seem to accept it and tried several times to jump up on stage with the group. Eventually, The Temptations had to hire extra security to keep David off the stage. The Temptations officially introduced Dennis Edwards on July 9, 1968 on stage in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Since then, Dennis has joined, left, and rejoined the group three times. During his initial nine year tenure with the group, their sound began to change thanks mostly to the writings and productions of Norman Whitfield. His collaborations with Barrett Strong (Money) would yield almost five years of continuous hits sending the Tempts in a whole new direction of driving rhythms and lyrics that reflected growing social consciousness. Dennisâ gritty leads fueled such hit songs as “I Canât Get Next To You”, Cloud Nine”, “Ball of Confusion”, “Psychedelic Shack” , “Runaway Child, Runninâ Wild”, as well as the three Grammy Award winning “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”.
In 1977 The Temptationsâs left Motown , where they had become increasingly unhappy, and signed with Atlantic Records. In the midst of this “new beginning” Edwards, feeling the urge to go solo, left the group and returned to Motown. He was replaced with Louis Price who became the twelfth Temptation.
Edwardsâ solo career wasnât happening, Motown dropped him, and in 1980 Dennis returned to the Temptations for six more albums. Shortly thereafter the Temptations resigned to Motown and there were rumors around the Industry that the “Classic” Tempts would be reuniting. It was wonderful news for the fans. David Ruffin & Eddie Kendricks were coming home to the Temptations.
The Reunion Tour began early in the spring of 1982 and ended in early November. The Tour drew sell-out crowds across the country, but David Ruffin, back to his old habits, missed the first three shows and his legal problems, along with disagreements among Group members, quashed any hope of anything permanent and right after Christmas of 1982 it became official that the group would remain with the current line-up of Dennis Edwards, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Richard Street & Glenn Leonard.
Probably the biggest event of 1983 was the “Motown 25” TV special, during which the Tempts & Four Tops were presented in a little battle like the ones they did back in Detroit years earlier. Dennis & Levi Stubbs really got into it, with Dennis singing “I can’t help myself, I love you and nobody else” to a gloating Levi. The response was so good that the T ‘n’ T tour ran for nearly three years and went all over the country. However, right after the Motown 25 taping, Dennis began showing up late or messed up from partying. He was replaced in 1984 by Ali “Ollie” Woodson.
That year, Edwards made one of the great duets of the decade for Motown, “Don’t Look Any Further” with Siedah Garrett. (Dennis originally planned to record the song with Chaka Khan, but scheduling conflicts forced a change in plans.) There weren’t many numbers that combined such sensuality, vocal assertiveness, excellent production, and superb arrangement, and it proved to be an impossible act for Dennis to follow. “(You’re My) Aphrodisiac,” was a Top 20 R&B single, but then cooled considerably. “Coolin’ Out” was Edwards’ final hit, peaking at number 23.
Back in the Temptations camp, and soon after his eighteen month probation period, things with Ali-Ollie began breaking down. It was the same tired story of lateness and all night partying before shows, in the same mode as Dennis and David before him. Ali-Ollie was released from the group.
Meanwhile, Ron Tyson had caught Dennis’ act in a little club in Philadelphia and told Otis Williams that “Dennis was looking good and singing great. People were really going for him”. After an intense, emotional meeting with Dennis, the four remaining Tempts, and Shelly Berger, it was decided that Dennis Edwards would reenter the group.
In 1987 the Temptations renewed their contract with Motown and completed their first album with Dennis back, titled, appropriately, Together Again.
In 1988, embattled by personal crisis, Edwards left the group again, during the recording of the Back To Basics album – only to be replaced once more by Ali-“Ollie” Woodson. This time, Dennis would be gone from the group for good.
On January 18, 1989, David, Eddie, Paul, Otis, Melvin and Dennis were inducted into the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame. Watching were Ali-Ollie, Richard Street and Ron Tyson. It was there that Edwards reunited with original Temptation Eddie Kendricks for a one-off single and then the two of them joined David Ruffin for a historical U.S. tour.
The unexpected deaths of his closest group members and friends, David Ruffin in 1991 of a cocaine overdose, and Eddie Kendricks, in 1992 of lung cancer, left Dennis alone.
He formed a new group called “The Temptations Review feat. Dennis Edwards”. The newly formed group toured the world extensively including , (USA, Russia, The Middle East, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Europe, and South American). Other group members included Mike Patillo, Bernard Gibson, Chris Arnold, and David Sea.
Despite legal battles with Otis Williams to use the name “Temptations” , Dennis harbored a deep rooted sense of responsibility to keep the spirit of The Temptations alive, so in 1995 under a new name “Dennis Edwards & The New Temps” he went on tour again, (along with some personnel changes).
Edwards is a talented musician and is one of the most gifted singers of our time. He has fourteen Gold Albums, Five grammyâs and Seven nominations for the grammy award. His music has traveled with many generations, selling well over 100 million recordings. His credits also include guest appearances on Johnny Carson, Ed Sullivan, Soul Train, The Joan Rivers Show, The Regis & Kathie Lee Show, The Merv Griffin Show, Midnight Special, Solid Gold, TCB and GIT (TV specials with Tempts & Supremes), Motownâs 25th Anniversary, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The Arsenio Hall Show. A television special titled “Kendricks, Ruffin, Edwards” has been shown on major networks. He has appeared on BET in his effort to support the “Feed The Children” program. Dennis has also been active in numerous plays, displaying his unique versatility. Among his latest recordings is a single titled “Calling Me Home”, a tribute to Eddie, David, Paul and Melvin. He is also working on a new album with Barrett Strong.
Through formidable challenges, beginning in his early days with the Contours, to his some 20 years as a Temptation, Dennis has certainly proven himself to be a true “Soul Survivor”.
And in our eyes, “Once a Temptation, always a Temptation, and certainly our Temptation”
Dennis Edwards is currently on tour with The TempsReview