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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Legend: Eddie Kendricks

Eddie arrived in Detroit along with childhood friends Paul Williams and Kell Osborne. Together they had formed a classic vocal group they called The Primes. Their tunes extended beyond the usual teenage Doo-wop tunes to include sophisticated material such as that of the Mills Brothers (a group originally billed as "Four Boys and a Guitar," since the Mills Brothers were so proficient at recreating trumpets, trombones, and saxophones with only their voices).

Naturally, When Otis Williams first saw The Primes perform he couldn't help but notice the vocal prowess of Kendricks, and the smooth moves of Paul Williams.

The Primes disbanded and all three members separated. When Eddie came back to Detroit from Birmingham to visit Paul, he put in a phone call to Otis and the timing was perfect since Otis just happened to have two spots to fill in his group, The Distants. Paul and Eddie added a whole new dimension to his group's sound, and the merging of the two groups became the Elgins. Now they were ready to audition for Berry Gordy.

The audition went well, and the group was offered a contract right on the spot.

It was 1961, but the group wouldn't have their first hit for a few years. Meanwhile, the group worked hard on their singing, their moves, and their look. Eddie always dressed beautifully, he had a knack for being sharp and hip, but classy at the same time, so his job in the group would be wardrobe, and he began putting together the group's stage uniforms.

The group continued recording on a regular basis with either Paul or Eddie leading on all the early songs, but none of the 1962 singles did much, including the unique "Dream Come True", and "Paradise". Both tunes featured Eddie's vocals, and they are appreciated today, but at the time they didn't even make the pop chart.

In early 1964 David Ruffin joined the group and coincidently things began to change. Smokey Robinson told the group he'd booked the studio for them to record a song he'd written with Bobby Rogers, one of the Miracles, while driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That night the five of them met at Eddie's house on Hanover and set out on the familiar walk over to Hitsville. The song, "The Way You Do The Things You Do", was charming and perfect for Eddie's voice. It was like a dream, finally, the song would peak at number 11 on the pop chart, and the group went off on their first full Motortown Review tour. (They had toured previously but only as back up singers.)

Before the year was over, the guys knew that success was not only possible, but probable, and they would get plenty of their share of good times and beautiful women, and Eddie, as it would turn out certainly had the power to attract women.

Around the same time, the uniforms the group had become known for, started getting really wild. Eddie was ahead of his time in picking the clothes, and at first the guys objected to some purple suits he had chosen. Otis thought the suits would make them look like pimps, but in the end they trusted his judgement and he ordered five purple suits with a white button. He was right, when the crowd saw them in those suits, they went absolutely wild.

In 1965, Smokey Robinson, who was writing mostly all of their material, turned his attention away from Eddie momentarily, to hand over "My Girl" to David Ruffin. The song would hit number one and stay there for eight weeks. It was the groups big breakthrough.

Over the next few years, many of the songs would be cut on David, but Eddie would not be left behind either. In 1966, Smokey would hand Eddie the song "Get Ready", but it didn't do as well as the song Norman Whitfield had written with David in mind, which was "Ain't Too Proud To Beg." Norman's song did much better on the charts, and shortly thereafter, Norman Whitfield would begin writing and producing almost exclusively for the group. David would get most of the leads, but Eddie would still have his share.

Up until this time, the guys were tight and always hung out together at one another's houses. Sometimes Melvin would cook up a pot of beans and cornbread. Eddie loved cornbread so much the guys playfully nicknamed him "cornbread".

When David Ruffin was dismissed in 1968, Eddie changed, upset with the attitudes of some of the group members, he formed an alliance with David outside the group. In the late 1960's, times would change and so would Norman's material. Eddie still preferred the harmonious love songs and wanted to do some of his own material separate from the group. The group said no, and Eddie became even more dissatisfied.

At the Copa in 1970, Eddie walked out after the first show, and it was decided, mutually, that it was time for him to leave the group. And so he did, leaving them with one of their all time biggest hits.

In March of 1971, on the wings of his swan song, the gossamer ballad "Just My Imagination," Eddie Kendricks quit The Temptations. The song hung at number one of a couple of weeks, but by that time, Eddie had already gone. Thanks largely to the writing/producing team of Frank Wilson/Leonard Caston Eddie would quickly develop a sound of his own.

His first solo album All By Myself featured testimonials on the back cover from Otis, Melvin, Dennis, and Paul, stating that there were no hard feelings regarding his departure from the group. The debut album contained the significantly titled "It's So Hard For Me To Say Goodbye", and "This Used To Be The Home Of Johnnie Mae", a great ballad that showcases the strength of his natural tenor, that he rarely used within the confines of The Temptations. Can't forget the oh so sexy "Can I", from the same album, apparantly, Eddie added the sexy spoken segments pretty much right on the spot.

The second album, People...Hold On was also well received. The cover picture had Eddie sitting on a African throne, draped in a tux, and holding a spear. It contained the funky "If You Let Me", and the beautiful ballad "Just Memories."

In 1973, the self titled Eddie Kendricks showed that Kendricks had the perfect voice to accompany the disco track "Keep On Truckin", and could still serve up a #1 hit for Motown. Most of the tracks on that album were the love songs that Eddie preferred, including his version of "Any Day Now", a song done by Chuck Jackson in 1963 and a country hit by Ronnie Milsap in 1982. Eddie's version was superior, I think. Also included is "Each Day I Cry A Little" with a rather extensive one of those spoken segments, that Eddie could do so well.

Next up, the album Boogie Down containing the disco hit of the same name. Similar to "Keep On Truckin", but didn't fare as well, especially on the pop charts. It did, however make a good showing on the R&B charts. Much of the album has a disco beat, with some of the lyrics obviously written about himself, such as "The Thin Man", and "Son of Sagittarius", which was, of course, Eddie's astrological sign. Aside from the disco songs, "Trust Your Heart" is a pretty, Temptation-like song, and when you hear "Tell Her Love Has Felt The Need", you know that Eddie wasn't leaving the love songs behind.

Eddie would continue through the 1970's with good to moderate success. The 1974 album For You is a great one including the hit "Shoeshine Boy", and the creamy love songs, "Please Don't Go Away" and "Deep And Quiet Love", as well as his tender rendition of the Jim Croce song, "Time In A Bottle. Again, another good album in 1975, The Hit Man, included the moderate hit "Skippin' Work Today", inspired by the songwriter who was doing just that everyday. He was in the park across the street from the Hitsville West studio, playing tennis instead of working.

For the 1976 He's A Friend, Frank Wilson would turn over production to Norman Harris. This album and the next one Goin Up In Smoke would have spiritual tones. Religion would become important to Eddie around this time and is evidenced in the title song "He's A Friend" where he speaks of God as his friend. Also on that album, is a number called "It's Not What You Got", where he tells that although he only weighs 145lbs., he's well put together thanks to God, and that he knows how to use what he's got. In the next album, "Goin Up In Smoke" he takes us back to religion with songs like "Born Again", "Don't You Want Light", and the title song "Goin Up In Smoke". On that same album is "The Music Man", where he tells us that he sings about love, he sings about disco, and he sings about god. He pretty well sums it up in those lyrics.

Eddie wrapped up the 1970's with Slick. This one is my favorite because it contains the sweet and fragile "Baby". I love this song, and there's no doubt he still had the goods, right down to the lovely vibratto in his voice.

In the 1980's Eddie switched over to Atlantic for the release of the 1981 Love Keys, a gem of an album with all love songs. Following this album, things dropped off quite a bit and the 1980's wouldn't be very kind to Eddie. Following the 1982 reunion tour with The Temptations, he would find himself ingored by the record industry becuase it was rumored that he'd lost his voice. Adding to his problems, he would be in and out of court with ex-wife Patricia. At the time, Kendricks was living between Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama. In Atlanta, he had his own record label, Msdixie Records, a small independent company, but it would fold within a short time.

In the early 1980's, Eddie would do mostly benefits and some free concerts, with Mary Wells and Martha Reeves, and play clubs and nostalgia shows. In 1985, Kendricks was onstage at the Premier Center, sharing the bill with Mary Wilson, who was then fronting a group of Supremes. David Ruffin had come to see the performance, and Eddie invited him onstage. Less than a year later there would be a hot Kendrick-Ruffin tour. The duo would appear at The Apollo Theater with Hall & Oates, then at the biggest international music event in history, Live-Aid, and would be featured vocalists in the anti-apartheid "Sun City" record and video. The two would do an album together for RCA in 1987, called Ruffin and Kendrick. (Sometime in the early 1980's Eddie had dropped the "s" from his last name).

The duo of Ruffin and Kendrick would tour for the next couple of years, until their 1989 R&R Hall of Fame Induction along with four other Temptations. It was there that they got to talking with Dennis Edwards and the duo became a trio. The three would form a tight bond and would tour and record together. In early October of 1989, the trio, calling themselves Ruffin, Kendrick, Edwards, Former Leads of The Temptations, appeared on the Regis & Kathy Lee show to promote their latest album and tour, Get It While It's Hot. (David was somehow absent from this album, but not the promotional tour that followed.)

In 1991, Ruffin, Kendrick, and Edwards would produce a video, a real treasure for their fans, in association with Street Gold Productions. The video would become a tribute to David Ruffin when he died unexpectedly, and later, Dennis Edwards would be left to wrap things up, when Eddie would succumb to the cancer that had ravaged him for over a year. Eddie Kendrick, the tender falsetto, the sweetest and silkiest of tenors, who had given us so much enjoyment, was gone.



Thanks to these blogs : Run's Lossless Library; Flabbergasted Vibes. Frisan's Other Favourites, Jamz for the Soul, Blogsportsoul, Pirate Island, A small selection of whatever fills my Head.


Simon666 said...

Added :

People ... Hold On (Tamla 1972)- FLAC alternate

Eddie Kendricks (Tamla 1973) - FLAC

For You (Tamla 1974)- FLAC alternate

The Hit Man (Tamla 1975) (flacs/320mp3)

Mr. Moo said...

Links on fellow blogs:

Simon666 said...

Thanks Mr. Moo :)

Mr. Moo said...

All By Myself (Tamla 1971):

Boogie Down! (Tamla 1974):

Slick (Tamla 1977):

Vintage'78 (Arista 1978):

Love Keys (Atlantic 1981):


Mr. Moo said...

Eddie Kendricks : The Ultimate Collection (1998):

MFS Equipe ♪ said...

What is the pw for Going Up In Smoke?

Simon666 said...

@ Mr. Moo -
Thanks! Well that's slammed this one home . Ususally I like to link to blogs rather than their downloads, but n the case of Pirate Island he's quite opn that he's just re-upping others' shares, so I'm using the direct links you provided. Thanks again :)

@ Jazzypier -
Hmmm I've asked at that place, but in the meantime i've replaced it with another link :

Mark said...

There is an Eddie album called 'I've got my eyes on you' (Miss Dixie, 1983). I found this feed ages ago which links to it:
The feed is from the 'On the Outside looking in' blog, but the page it is from no longer seems to exist. The link to the file still works though.

Simon666 said...

Good digging there Mark!
Thanks, linked it up.
Distorted 128k mp3 but album sounds like a good one, will have to watch for a better copy now ...

Simon666 said...

hmmmmmmm hard to find!

Found a slightly better version of the song "I'll never find another like you" :

jcmoss33 said...

You guys did it again!!! Awesome job and thanks a million for the Eddie Kendricks!!! Keep doing your excellent work as's greatly appreciated!!!

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