The Agony and Ecstasy of Dennis Edwards, Temptations Lead Singer and Soul Legend

Dennis Edwards, lead singer of the Temptations from 1968 to 1977, passed away on February 2 at the age of 74. Edwards famously joined the iconic Motown group to replace David Ruffin, the bespectacled vocal dynamo whod been center stage on such classics as Aint Too Proud To Beg, My Girl and I Wish It Would Rain. Stepping into such large shoes has never been easy, but Dennis Edwards would not only sustain the Temptationshe would amplify their musical legacy.

It was Ruffin who gave the thumbs-up for his friend Edwards to replace him in the group, even telling Edwards about the proposed hiring beforehand. Hed been performing with another Motown act, The Contours, and had been vying for a chance at stardom for years. Born in Alabama, Edwards moved to Detroit with his family when he was ten years old. He sang in his fathers church and eventually joined the gospel act The Mighty Clouds of Joy but was turned on by the growing soul sounds coming out of Detroit. And he was inspired by a legend who had crossed over.

Sam Cookewas a gospel singer like myself and when he crossed over and started singing rock n roll, it kind of gave me the green light to go ahead and do it, Edwards told The News Times in 2004. At that time, our parents thought it was a bad thing to do. Singing rock n roll, they called it singing for the devil. But we all wanted an opportunity to compete in the music industry and that was the opportunity.

After some false starts, Dennis landed at Motown and with The Contours. But replacing Ruffin in one of the worlds most famous musical acts was stepping up to another level.

Edwards made his Temptations debut on the 1968 single Cloud Nine, a song that would win the group its first Grammy (and Motowns first as a label) and put them at the forefront of the burgeoning psychedelic soul movement. With producer Norman Whitfield now helming most of their hits (replacing the Tempts former main songwriter Smokey Robinson), the group was going into a more topical direction, with a funky, less ballad-driven sound that was heavily influenced by Sly Stone.

Edwards was more than the other guy who stepped in to replace a legend. Edwards was one of the best gospel shouters in the history of soul music and one of the defining voices of the Temptations.

The Temptations commercial run continued into the 1970sas did the personnel changes, personality conflicts, and drama. Mainstays Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams left; Damon Harris and Richard Street joined; and Dennis began to bump heads with long-running members Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams. The group departed Motown in 1977 for Atlantic after complaints with the label over money, but Otis Williams told Edwards prior to the label move that he was out. Williams had been growing frustrated with producer Jeffrey Bowen focusing too much on Edwards as lead vocalist; Bowen had replaced Whitfield (who departed Motown in the mid-70s to start his own label) and the Temptations commercial run dried up. To Williams, Bowenand Edwardswas the cause.

Fame had the expected effect on Dennis and hed fallen into some of the trappings. Aretha Franklin wrote her 1972 classic Day Dreaming about the Temptations singer. The two fell in love and were close to marriage but things came to a harsh end when Edwards began seeing Ruth Pointer of The Pointer Sisters. Edwards and Pointer would briefly marry but the two fell deep into cocaine addiction in the late-1970s. The drugs eventually played a role in Edwards dismissal from the Temptations. But he rejoined the group when they returned to Motown in 1980.

Drugs were a major part of Ruffins notoriety, and it didnt help when Edwards began performing with ex-Temptations Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, who reunited with the Temptations for the Reunion album in 1982. The reunion eventually fell apart, as Ruffins addictions made him unreliable and, soon, Edwards began missing shows as well. He would be fired from the Temptations in 1984. Following a successful solo run (which saw Edwards release the hit 1984 duet Dont Look Any Further with Siedah Garrett), he rejoined the group, only to leave again for a third and final time in 1987.

Over the years, notable Temptations passed on suddenly. David Ruffin would die from a cocaine overdose in 1991 following a tour with Edwards and Kendricks; Kendricks from lung cancer in 1993; and Melvin Franklin fell into a diabetic coma and died in 1995. Damon Harris died of prostate cancer in 2013. Richard Street died a week later of a pulmonary embolism.

I never imagined Id be one of the last ones standing, me and Otis, said Edwards in a 2013 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We really got caught up in the times, and how the heck did I make it?

We dibbled and dabbled with alcohol and drugs. But its important for people to know if you change your lifestyle and wake up, there is hope. I had a mother who prayed for me, and prayer changes everything.

In the popular 1998 NBC miniseries The Temptations, Edwards role in the group is given minimal attention as compared to the Classic Five. The only noteworthy moment depicted the infamousand slightly apocryphalargument between Edwards and legendary songwriter/producer Norman Whitfield over the opening lines of Papa Was A Rolling Stone. The story goes that Whitfield had written the famous line It was the 3rd of September not knowing that Edwards father had really died on that day, infuriating the singer. In reality, Edwards father had passed in October.

When [Whitfield] wrote the song, I thought he was talking about my father. I was a little upset, Edwards recalled in 2004. I got kind of perturbed about that. But when I really found out it was just a coincidence and the record did so well, I let it alone.

That bit of lore has lingered for decades, but Dennis Edwards was more than the other guy who stepped in to replace a legend. Edwards was one of the best gospel shouters in the history of soul music and one of the defining voices of the Temptations. It was Edwards voice that carried them through their most sonically ambitious period, and it was Edwards approach that came to define the Temptations vocally throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.

With his death, music fans lose yet another pillar of that legendary group. But that voice is part of the fabric of American music. Dennis Edwards was soul personified. The man was nobodys footnote. He was always a headliner.

Read more:

Tributes paid to South African musician and activist Hugh Masekela

Father of South African jazz, who had career spanning more than five decades, dies aged 78

Tributes paid to South African musician and activist Hugh Masekela

Father of South African jazz, who had career spanning more than five decades, dies aged 78

South Africans have paid tribute to Hugh Masekela, the legendary jazz musician and activist, who died on Tuesday aged 78.

The South African president, Jacob Zuma, said the nation would mourn a man who kept the torch of freedom alive. The arts and culture minister, Nathi Mthethwa, described Masekela as one of the great architects of Afro-Jazz. A baobab tree has fallen, Mthethwa wrote on Twitter.

A statement from the trumpeters family said Masekela passed peacefully in Johannesburg, where he lived and worked for much of his life, on Tuesday morning.

A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with a profound loss. Hughs global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memories of millions across six continents, the statement read.

Relatives described Masekelas ebullient and joyous life.

Masekela had been suffering from prostate cancer for almost a decade. He last performed in 2010 in Johannesburg when he gave two concerts that were seen as an epitaph to his long career.

South African social media was flooded with tributes to brother Hugh, whose career and work was closely intertwined with the troubled politics of his homeland.

The singer Johnny Clegg described Masekela as immensely bright and articulate an outstanding musical pioneer and a robust debater, always holding to his South African roots.

Masekela was born in Witbank, a mining town in eastern South Africa, and was given his first trumpet by the anti-apartheid activist archbishop Trevor Huddleston, who formed a pioneering jazz band in Soweto in the 1950s that became a launchpad for many of South Africas most famous jazz musicians.

Masekela went on to study in the UK and the US, where he had significant success.

Hugh Masekela with ex-wife Miriam Makeba and Paul Simon in 1987. Photograph: Phil Dent/Redferns

As well as forming close friendships with jazz legends such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, Masekela performed alongside Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.

He returned to Africa where he played with icons such as Nigerias Fela Kuti, and in 1974 he helped organise a three-day festival before the Rumble in the Jungle boxing clash in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

In 1976, the man who became known as the father of South African jazz composed Soweto Blues in response to the uprising in the vast township. He toured with Paul Simon in the 1980s while continuing his political engagement, writing Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) in 1987. The song became an anthem of the anti-apartheid struggle.


Hugh Masekela timeline

Hugh Masekela is born in KwaGuqa Township, South Africa

Masekela is born near Johannesburg to a health inspector father and social worker mother. He sings and plays the piano as a child. At 14, he sees the Kirk Douglas film Young Man With A Horn and is inspired to take up the trumpet.

King Kong

At school, Masekela played in South Africas first youth orchestra,Huddleston Jazz Band. In 1959, he recorded the first album by a South African jazz band alongside Abdullah Ibrahim and Jonas Gwangwa. In the same year, he played in the orchestra of hit musical King Kong.

Masekela leaves South Africa

The ANC are banned, and after supporting the organisation for many years, Masekela leaves South Africa for London. He then moves to New York, where he meets Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie.

Grazing in the Grass

By the late 60s, Masekela was living in California. In 1967, he played at Monterey festival alongside Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. In 1968, his single Grazing in the Grass reached no 1 in the US.

Zaire 74

Masekela returns to Africa in the early 70s, spending time with musicians including Fela Kuti. He organises the Zaire 74 concerts with US record producer Stewart Levine to coincide with the Muhammad Ali/George Foreman Rumble in the Jungle boxing title fight. In 1980, he moves to Botswana.

Graceland tour

Masekela joins Paul Simon for hisGracelandtour. Simons album was partly recorded in South Africa, and the tour incites protests in London due to the cultural boycott against the country.

Return to South Africa

Masekela returns to South Africa following the end of apartheid and the release from jail ofNelson Mandela. In 1996, he plays for the Queen and Mandela by then elected the countrys first black president during the latters state visit to Britain.

World Cup

Masekela performs at the opening concert of the world cup in South Africa. In 2012, he rejoins Paul Simon for a tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of Graceland.

James Hall, a writer and broadcaster who spent time with Masekela in the 1990s, said he could have prickly personality at times due to the tension and frustration of being away from his own country for so long.

Masekela was briefly married to Miriam Makeba in the 1960s and remained on good terms with the South African singer after their divorce. They had a wonderful friendship and were very, very close, said Hall, who co-wrote Makebas autobiography.

Masekela refused to take citizenship anywhere outside South Africa despite the open arms of many countries, said his son, Selema Mabena Masekela, on Tuesday.

My fathers life was the definition of activism and resistance. His belief [was] that the pure evil of a systematic racist oppression could and would be crushed. Instead he would continue to fight.

After more than 30 years in exile, Masekela returned to South Africa in the early 90s after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the end of apartheid.

In 2010 he performed at the opening ceremony of the football World Cup in Johannesburg.

Masekela had many fans overseas. Hugh Masekela was a titan of jazz and of the anti-apartheid struggle. His courage, words and music inspired me and strengthened the resolve of those fighting for justice in South Africa, said Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter.

Hugh Masekela photographed for the Guardian in 2011. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Read more:

Moody Blues singer Ray Thomas dies at 76

The musician, who played the flute solo on one of the bands biggest hit, Nights in White Satin, had suffered from prostate cancer

The Moody Blues star Ray Thomas has died at the age of 76. The flautist and vocalist died suddenly on Thursday, his record label said.

Cherry Red Records and Esoteric Recordings said in a statement: We are deeply shocked by his passing and will miss his warmth, humour and kindness. It was a privilege to have known and worked with him and our thoughts are with his family and his wife, Lee, at this sad time.

In 2014 Thomas revealed on his website that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said he had received his diagnosis in 2013.

My cancer was inoperable but I have a fantastic doctor who immediately started me on a new treatment that has had 90% success rate, he wrote. The cancer is being held in remission but Ill be receiving this treatment for the rest of my life.

Born in Stourport-on-Severn on 29 December 1941, Thomas started out in blues and soul groups in the 1960s and later formed the Moody Blues alongside Mike Pinder, Denny Laine, Graeme Edge and Clint Warwick.

Although the bands roots lay in the blues, their 1964 hit Go Now was a foretaste of the lush, orchestral sound that came to be called progressive rock.

Their 1967 album Days of Future Passed is a prog-rock landmark, and Thomass flute solo on the single Nights in White Satin one of its defining moments.

Thomas wrote several songs for the band, including the trippy Legend of a Mind and Veteran Cosmic Rocker.

Thomas also enjoyed solo success with the albums From Mighty Oaks and Hopes Wishes & Dreams. The Moody Blues, including Thomas, were to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Read more: