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Dennis Edwards

"Once a Temptation, always a Temptation" might have been the motto for explosive vocalist Dennis Edwards, who joined, left, and rejoined the group three times. Edwards was born in Birmingham, but his family moved to Detroit when he was seven. As a high-school student, Edwards sang with the Crowns of Joy gospel group, then formed a soul-jazz band called Dennis Edwards & the Firebirds, inspired by organist Richard "Groove" Holmes. Motown bass legend James Jamerson heard Edwards singing one night and suggested he audition. They needed a lead singer quickly for the Contours, and his feature on "It's So Hard Being Alone" was Edwards' entry into the company. A song he recorded for Soulsville, "I Didn't Have To (But I Did)," got moderate reaction, but Edwards was soon enlisted to replace David Ruffin as lead singer of the Temptations in 1968. He spent the next nine years in that role, his gritty leads fueling such songs as "Cloud Nine," "I Can't Get Next to You," "Ball of Confusion," and "Psychedelic Shack," as well as the groundbreaking singles "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" and "Masterpiece." He left for the first time in 1977, returned in 1979, and left again in 1983.

In 1984, Edwards, solo once more, made one of the great duets of the decade, "Don't Look Any Further," with Siedah Garrett. It narrowly missed the top of Billboard's R&B chart. There weren't many numbers that better combined sensuality, vocal assertiveness, excellent production, and a superb arrangement. The follow-up, "(You're My) Aphrodisiac," was a Top 20 R&B single, but things then cooled considerably. "Coolin' Out" was Edwards' final hit, peaking at number 23, but he returned to the Temptations in 1987. Edwards briefly teamed with ex-Temptations David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks in the trio Ruffin/Kendricks/Edwards, but nothing was ever released. Along with other members of the Temptations, he was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. During the following three decades, he continued to perform, first as the leader of Dennis Edwards & the Temptations and then, after a legal dispute with original group member Otis Williams, the Temptations Review Featuring Dennis Edwards. Edwards died in February 2018 at the age of 74. ~ Ron Wynn

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