I wasn't wanting to have to do a memorial like this on someone's milestone day, but for some people you just have to even though it's painful to say goodbye.
Yesterday we learned of the passing -- at 74 and just two days shy of his 75th birthday today -- of one of our lifetime's most recognizable and beloved voices, himself a longtime veteran of one of the world's very most treasured and formative vocal groups.
I know there are advocates for the different eras of The Temptations, and for many the 1960s period with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks out front takes the cake. But I'm not one of those people.
Regardless, I suppose it's true that if you live a lifetime in which you get to be the lead vocalist on a whole bunch of the most beloved, covered and standardized songs ever sung by human beings, you have led the right life.
Let's review: Cloud Nine. I Can't Get Next to You. Papa Was a Rollin' Stone. Shakey Ground. Ball of Confusion. It goes on, and on, and on. And those are just some of the popular ones.
Nope, for me My Girl and Imagination are wonderful, but it's the immediate period following the departures of Ruffin and Kendricks in which the Temps made their biggest moves and their biggest mark.
There, I said it. The Temptations' greatest times were when they were led by Dennis Edwards.
Of course, having Psychedelic Soul savant Norman Whitfield behind the board didn't hurt. But the fact is that the Temptations' most ambitious and funkiest music comes from precisely the five years that Dennis was the lead vocalist.
Surely one of the most recognizably-identifiable-by-one-syllable singers who'll ever open his mouth, his scratchy immediacy and ability to become the convincing protagonist of a song are essentially unparalleled in the history of music on this planet, and his voice will still be heard long after everyone we know has long departed here.
By way of celebration and commemoration, I have upped to the aether a wild and totally unique compilation I made many many years ago, which covers the Dennis Edwards/Norman Whitfield epoch of The Temptations and includes several not-sold-in-stores edits I constructed back then that are specific to this tape alone.
Temptations (In Funk)
01 Runaway Child, Running Wild
02 Psychedelic Shack (EN edit)
03 Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down
04 Let Your Hair Down
05 Do Your Thing
06 You Make Your Own Heaven and Hell Right Here On Earth
07 I Can't Get Next to You
08 Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)
09 Cloud Nine
10 Shakey Ground
11 Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)
12 Plastic Man
13 Ain't No Justice
14 Stop the War Now (EN single edit)
16 Run Charlie Run
17 Papa Was a Rollin' Stone (EN edit)
Total time: 1:18:55
EN compilation from circa 2009, containing several unique edits
502 MB FLAC/February 2018 archive link
This is truly one of my all-time best mixes and to be honest I'm as proud of the single-edit I did on the (previously 13-minute) Stop the War Now -- one of this band's most epic tracks and very hard to find on a reissue in any form -- as I am of anything I've ever done in life. If you think the shit's dated, just substitute the word "Afghanistan" for "Viet Nam" and you'll get the picture of how little has changed.
Anyway I shall return soon -- and I as Emperor hereby decree no further seminal artists are permitted to die during Black History Month 2018 -- but for now please never forget to remember the lion with a microphone that was the instantly immortal Dennis Edwards, born this day in 1943 and built to last forever.--J.
2.3.1943 - 2.1.2018