The Temptations' Paul Williams

Paul Williams was a baritone vocalist of the original Temptations, one of the most

successful and acclaimed male vocal groups of the '60s. He sang lead on a number of

songs and was instrumental in engineering the band's exciting choreography and in

developing its style. But he was haunted by personal demons, which led to his

separating from the group.

Williams was born 60 years ago today in Birmingham, Ala. Williams, along with future

Temptation Eddie Kendricks, sang in a Detroit band, the Primes, in the late '50s. The

Primes were the inspiration for the Primettes, the group that became the Supremes

— the Primes' management felt a female version of the band would have similar

success.

The Primes were noticed by Otis Williams (no relation) who led the Detroit group the

Distants. Otis merged his band, which also included Eldridge Bryant and Melvin Franklin,

with the Primes to form the Elgins in 1961.

The group soon changed its name to the Temptations and recorded two unsuccessful

singles for Motown's Miracle label. In 1962 the Temptations made the U.S. top 40 with

"Dream Come True," then suffered a few more flops. But the group's matching suits and

skilled dance moves began to attract attention.

After fighting with Paul, Bryant was fired and replaced by David Ruffin. The band started

to work with Smokey Robinson, who wrote the Temptations' #11 hit "The Way You Do

the Things You Do." The song began a long string of smooth soul-pop hits.

In 1965 the group topped the Billboard Hot 100 with "My Girl" (

HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7Ey-

XXXXXX%2F0087108_0102_00_0002.ra">RealAudio excerpt), and also had

hits with "It's Growing," "Since I Lost My Baby," "My Baby" and "Don't Look Back," on

which Paul sang lead. The Robinson-written "Get Ready" topped the R&B chart the

following year and was also a crossover hit.

The Temptations' reputation grew with such classics as "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (1966),

"(I Know) I'm Losing You" (1966) and "You're My Everything" (1967). Their sound, aided

by producer Norman Whitfield, began to grow tougher and more R&B-oriented.

Despite enjoying more hits in 1968, Ruffin was growing dissatisfied with working in a

group and was fired. But with replacement Dennis Edwards, the Temptations' successes

continued, including "Cloud Nine," "Run Away Child Running Wild" and "Ball of

Confusion." In these songs the band began to engage in social commentary and

became one of the few Motown acts to get airplay on the burgeoning progressive radio

stations.

The Temptations hit #1 with 1969's "I Can't Get Next to You" and 1971's "Just My

Imagination (Running Away with Me)," their last hit sung by Kendricks, who quit to go

solo. In 1972 Paul left the band due to problems with alcohol and poor health. In his last

days as a Temptation, Paul's parts had to be sung from behind a stage curtain by his

eventual replacement, Richard Street.

Though he remained in contact with the Temptations after his departure, Paul fell into

deep despair. He was found dead in 1973 in his car, which was parked close to Motown

headquarters. Paul's death was apparently caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Though the Temptations had more hits, including the 1972 #1 "Papa Was a Rollin'

Stone," they began to scale the charts less frequently. Otis continues to lead a version of

the Temptations to this day.

The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Last year,

the story of the Temptations was recounted in a TV miniseries, and the band issued

Phoenix Rising.

Other birthdays: Johnny Colla (Huey Lewis & The News), 47; Joe Puerta (Ambrosia), 47;

Pete Briquette (Boomtown Rats), 45; Martin Phillipps (The Chills), 36; Dave Parsons

(Bush), 35; and Monie Love, 29.