Ode to Dennis Edwards (1943-2018)

Short drum riff. Wah-wah guitar. A silky, subtle “ooh-hoo”, some scatting, and finally, “The childhood part of my life wasn’t very pretty.” The beginning of The Temptations’ Cloud Nine was when Dennis Edwards husky tenor voice burst into my consciousness. It would eventually become one of the early voices of the soundtrack of my life.

He replaced the seemingly irreplaceable David Ruffin with The Temptations at their peak after seven straight #1 R&B albums. But he did more than be the lead singer in the group. Dennis became the lead voice for one of the great and significant eras in the history of R&B – the Psychedelic Soul Era where R&B merged with psychedelic rock and the raw, gritty sound matched the bleak social conditions for black people in America that the songs spoke to.

In so doing, he took the Tempts to even greater success by powering a stream of Top 20 hits. Runaway Child, Runnin’ Wild followed Cloud Nine. Then Don’t Let the Joneses Get You Down, I Can’t Get Next to You, Psychedelic Shack, Ball of Confusion, Just My Imagination, Superstar, the epic Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone, and Masterpiece. There is NO music of any period or any artist that I have spent more time listening to than The Temptations albums of that Psychedelic Soul era that spanned 1969’s Cloud Nine and 1973’s 1990[1].

As that era moved on to the funkier/jazzier sounds of bands like Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, and Ohio Players, the Temptations sound moved with it. And eventually, Dennis Edwards moved on to a solo career that produced one hit, Don’t Look Any Further in 1984.

Interesting fact – Dennis was the lead singer on the last recording by The Contours of Do You Love Me fame. They disbanded after he left the group for The Temptations.

Dennis Edwards – Rest In Peace.

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[1] Their odd 1975 album Wings of Love had an oddly intriguing song Mary Ann that I could not get enough of.

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