Remembering Eddie Kendricks
The image remains indelible: The Temptations dressed in slick, shiny pastel suits, with matching shirts and shoes, spinning through the most elegantly choreographed routines in rock or soul, fronted by a pair of whippet leads: gravel-voiced David Ruffin and silken-smooth Eddie Kendricks. The Temptations’ glory came from their contrasts — Ruffin’s growl matched by Kendricks’ shrill cries. Now, both Ruffin and Kendricks are gone. Ruffin died last year of drug-related causes. Kendricks, who sang lead on many Temptations hits, including ”The Way You Do the Things You Do” and ”Just My Imagination,” died Oct. 5 of lung cancer. He was 52.
Kendricks (later shortened to Kendrick) had the lightest voice in the Temps, and he led their most distinctive dance numbers, including ”Get Ready.” He was more than a little ahead of his time: After going solo in 1971, he made an effortless transition to disco, scoring huge crossover successes with ”Keep on Truckin”’ and ”Boogie Down.” Kendricks’ magnificent falsetto, which shaped weightless, unquavering, ultrahigh notes, left its own legacy in the vocal style that still dominates house music and new jack swing. Among his best:
With the Temptations:
MEET THE TEMPTATIONS/THE TEMPTATIONS SING SMOKEY Their debut coupled with the first great soul concept album. A
SKY’S THE LIMIT The best of their later, Norman Whitfield-produced LPs, with ”Just My Imagination” and ”Smiling Faces Sometimes.” B
THE TEMPTATIONS ANTHOLOGY The best overview of the group’s sweet and punchy soul. A-
EDDIE KENDRICKS AT HIS BEST A generous sampler of his dance hits, plus ”Just My Imagination,” the biggest of his Temptations leads. B+