The Temptations' buttery vocal harmonies, precision choreography and charismatic stage presence solidified their status as one of the premier acts of Motown Records' golden era.
Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Elbridge "Al" Bryant, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams formed the first incarnation of the Temptations (originally dubbed the Elgins) in Detroit in 1960. The combination of the group's R&B and doo-wop-inspired harmonies with Motown's soulful style and sophistication yielded a series of crossover pop hits beginning with "The Way You Do the Things You Do," produced by Smokey Robinson, who also helmed the Tempts classics "My Girl" and "Get Ready." Bryant's dismissal from the lineup signaled the arrival of David Ruffin, the featured vocalist on "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," the first in a series of blockbuster singles produced by up-and-coming Motown staffer Norman Whitfield.
Whitfield steered the Temptations into the realm of psychedelic soul with 1968's landmark "Cloud Nine," followed by a string of hard-hitting, street-smart hits like "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)," "Psychedelic Shack" and the epic "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." The Temptations returned to their ballad roots for the chart-topping "Just My Imagination (Running Away from Me)," their final single to feature Kendricks on lead vocal. Lineup changes slowed the Temptations' commercial momentum during the late 1970s and early 1980s, although their smooth harmonies and polished performances continued to captivate audiences, and in 1989 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.