Dennis Edwards, whose face and voice became synonomous with The Tempations and who later in his career starred as the front man for The Temptations Review, died in Chicago on Thursday night at age 74.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Edwards, who was living in Missouri, died at a Chicago hospital from complications from meningitis. Those details were attributed to his wife, Brenda.
Edwards, who would have turned 75 on Saturday, was inducted into the Rick and Roll Hall of Fame with the Temptations in 1989. In 2013, he also received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, given to the Temptations.
In Memphis in December 2016, Edwards had top billing for The LeMoyne-Owen College’s “A Soulful Holiday Evening” at the Cannon Center. TSD freelance journalist Tony Jones talked with him beforehand. Edwards whooped when asked whether age had slowed down the Temps’ legendary choreography.
“I should say, 73 years young!” he laughed. “We’ve been doing it so long that it’s probably automatic. I have a bunch of young guys with me now and we have fun playing off it. We don’t do it like we used to, but all these guys are so talented, and we have it tight.”
Edwards’ college of knowledge was Motown. As depicted in the hallmark music biopic “The Temptations,” Edwards’ history was shown as a pivotal point, leading the group to its first Grammy for “Cloud Nine.” Some have lamented that the film did not highlight more of the impact of the Temps’ “A Song For You” release. With hits such as the title track, “Memories,” “Shaky Ground” and “Glass House,” it brought them back. And, it was a big moment for Edwards.
“My job was to hit ’em hard, but when Norman Whitfield came to me with the concept of that album he told me he wanted me to sing in more of a sweet tone,” Edwards said. “Paul Williams’s voice was so rich, it worked. See, we all had a job. Paul came with the melody. Eddie (Kendricks) came with the sweetness. Otis (Williams) came with that great tenor, and Melvin Franklin was the greatest bass of all time.
“Everybody had their job and that was why we were known as the greatest group of all time. Now that we look back on it, it’s amazing how good the music was. We were just young boys and didn’t realize that great singers could last this long.”
(This story reflects information from TSD’s archives, most notably an interview by freelancer Tony Jones.)