Motown pioneer initially joined group in 1968, appeared on hits "Ball of Confusion," "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"
Dennis Edwards, a former lead singer of Motown pioneers the Temptations, died Friday at the age of 74. He was originally a member of the revered soul group from 1968 until 1977, rejoining for various reunions later. His voice was present on a string of hits, including "I Can't Get Next to You," "Ball of Confusion" and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." His family confirmed the news to CBS News.
Edwards, who was living in Missouri, died at a hospital in Chicago on Thursday night of complications from meningitis, his wife, Brenda, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He was diagnosed with the disease in May 2017. Edwards was inducted into the Rick and Roll Hall of Fame with the Temptations in 1989. In 2013, Edwards also received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, given to the Temptations.
"It really saddens me to know that another Motown soldier is gone. Rest In peace, my brother. You were a great talent," Smokey Robinson tells Rolling Stone.
Edwards was born February 3rd, 1943 in Fairfield, Alabama and grew up in Detroit. He sang in gospel groups as a teen and studied at the Detroit Conservatory of Music before embarking on music professionally, according to The New York Times. He was a member of the Motown group the Contours in the earlier part of the Sixties. The ensemble was best known for the 1962 song "Do You Love Me," which they released before he joined. He joined the Temptations in 1968 when the group fired David Ruffin. He brought a fresh vivacity to the group's sound, a bit of grit to replace Ruffin's smooth falsetto. The group adopted a little more of a bluesy, soul-rock sound and began writing lyrics that spoke more to the social issues of the time, and it scored an immediate hit with the Sly Stone-like "Cloud Nine." Edwards' lineup of the Temptations then enjoyed a tenure in the upper echelons of the R&B and pop charts for the next few ears, scoring crossover hits with "Run Away Child, Running Wild," "Don't Let the Jonses Get You Down," "Psychedelic Shack and "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)."
The quintet won Grammys for "CLoud Nine" and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone."
Although the group continued to score Top 10 R&B hits toward the end of Edwards' tenure, their reign at the top of the pop chart's Top 30 dwindled over time. Nevertheless, they continued to put out top-selling albums. Every album of new material that they put out through 1976 reached the album chart's Top 40, and many made it into the Top 10.
The group split with Motown for 1976's The Temptations Do the Temptations and moved to Atlantic, around which time Edwards left the group. He rejoined for a few years in the early Eighties, when they returned to Motown, and scored a hit again with 1980's "Power." The attendant album, The Temptations, however was not a hit. Ruffin returned in 1982, and the group embarked on a reunion tour as a seven-man group, scoring a hit with 1982's Reunion and the Rick James–produced single "Standing on the Top (Part 1)." He left in 1983 but was back in 1986 for a year, just long enough to record To Be Continued. He'd join again for a final tenure from 1987 to 1989.
Outside of the Temptations, Edwards scored a solo hit with "Don't Look Any Further," a duet with Siedah Garrett, which made it to Number 72 on the pop chart and Number 2 on the R&B chart. The song later became fodder for the hip-hop's nascent new school, appearing as a sample in Eric B. and Rakim's game-changing "Paid in Full" and later in 2Pac's "Hit 'Em Up" and Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s "Getting' Money" with the Notorious B.I.G.
Edwards also later teamed with Ruffin and the Temptations' Eddie Kendricks for a "Tribute to the Temptations" package tour. The group later attempted to keep Edwards from using the Temptations name, which was owned by Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin, leading to a permanent injunction against him in 1999 from using the name in advertising for his concerts. He later toured as the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards.
The New York Times reports that Edwards was once married to one of the Pointer Sisters, Ruth Pointer, but that the marriage ended in divorce. His survivors include his wife, Brenda, five daughters, a son and grandchildren.