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
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" (
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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
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
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.