- Sun, 2008-03-16 16:05
Formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1960, The Temptations have one of the longest tenures on Motown, second only to Stevie Wonder. The group, known for its recognizable choreography, distinct harmonies, and onstage suits, were as influential to soul as the Beatles were to rock and pop.
From My Girl, Papa Was a Rollin' Stone and Can I Get A Witness, to Ain't Nothin' Like The Real Thing, I'll Be There and Don't Leave Me This Way, they've sold over 22 million albums and had smash hits across the world.
As the band release their Classic Soul Hits best of album, I Like Music caught up with three of The Temptations to talk about their songs, The Grammys and their own temptations in life.
''I Like Music because… there’s no way I could ever imagine a world without music.” Terry, The Temptations
''I Like Music because… music is universal. It’s understood by everyone and it brings people together.” Joe, The Temptations
''I Like Music because… It’s therapy for my soul.” Bruce, The Temptations
ILM: You are one of the world’s best-loved soul groups, and your Classic Soul Hits album is out on March 3rd. I grew up listening to huge hits like My Girl and Papa Was a Rollin' Stone, I’ll Be There and Just My Imagination. Looking back over your career, which moments stand out the most?
Terry: Cheryl, there are several… performing at the Superbowl, winning a grammy. Just recently we had the chance to perform at the White House for the President.
Joe: Royal Albert Hall every few years, and Carnegie Hall a few months ago.
Terry: There’s so many and they continue. Like doing Jonathan Ross. I didn’t feel like we were guests on the show, we should have been sitting in the audience.
ILM: Ah yes, Jonathan Ross, he’s a cheeky chap.
ILM: Also which tracks do you remember as having the most fun laying down in the studio?
Bruce: For me it was Hold On I’m Comin’, because working with a talented guy like Terry because he pushed me to my limit. He always makes me work a little harder.
Terry: The whole process of recording is such a good thing. It’s surprising for myself because If you look at the genre of music that we’re working with and the group has been around for 47 years you’d think that nobody else wants to hear anything new from this group but audiences have been very receptive. We enjoy it and we hope it continues.
ILM: You’re embarking on a nationwide UK tour for 2008 - what do you look forward to most about playing live?
Terry: It’s the fact that we see a different face in that audience ever night. So we go out and do the absolute best we can on their behalf. Who knows there could be someone in that audience who hasn’t seen The Tempations before or never even heard of the group so we like to win them over and add another fan to our fan base, to our family.
ILM: Have you spent much time in the UK?
Terry: Oh yeah! My English accent has gone for now, but it’ll come back. The audiences, we were talking about them earlier, they’re so into the shows it’s almost scary sometimes. It’s like, ‘wow.’
ILM: Out of these songs (my favourites) Papa Was A Rollin' Stone, Ain't No Mountain High Enough… can you pick one and tell me how it came about/the story behind it?
Joe: Papa Was A Rollin' Stone - I don’t think they had any idea that it would be a hit. You don’t know really what you want to record, you only hope for it to be a hit. The Tempations had so many songs that people have never heard because they weren’t released. Papa Was A Rolling Stone was one of those songs. It was a surprise to everybody that it became such a big hit and one of the recognizable songs to The Temptations.
Terry: With Papa, according to Otis, they weren’t going to record it; they didn’t like it. Dennis’s father had passed away around that same time.
Joe: Actually on that very day.
Terry: On that day. And that was the first line of the song, “It was the third of September. That day I'll always remember, yes I will. 'Cause that was the day that my daddy died.” So he had a problem with singing that song.
ILM: You’ve sold over 22 million albums, The Temptations are one of the most successful groups in music history and were the definitive male vocal group of the 1960s. Please describe The Temptations process of making such fine music? Does it tend to be melody first or lyrics or is it always just random/different?
Joe: The Temptations had a lot of songs by different writers. You have to have good songs. All songs sung by The Temptations are very clean songs which has a lot to do with the longevity of the music. I call it ‘safe’ or ‘family’ songs, because the lyrics can be sung by anyone. The lyrics in a song can be the determining factor about whether a song is even going to be sung by The Temptations
ILM: What advice would you give to young people on following their dreams to get the career they want for themselves?
Joe: First of all, things will happen once you’re grounded. You don’t want things to happen if you are flying too high. If you see yourself living this life you have to be very grounded, because there are a lot of things that can knock you off. You’re feet must be firmly planted and be very spiritual and you have to believe very much in yourself. Believe in your dreams, that’s what I’ve always looked at as the beginning to go forward.
Terry: I’d absolutely echo what Joe has said. First and foremost you need that absolute belief in yourself. Every guy here and everyone in this industry has it. Everyone is not going to like you or think you have the ability, but your belief in yourself will get you through those times. It’s happened to each one of us. That belief in yourself will get you through those rough times and sustain you when you think maybe they’re right, that maybe you don’t have what it takes. You’ve got to think that’s one person telling you that, so your belief in yourself will sustain you and you have to question yourself about why you’re doing this. If it’s not for the love of what you’re doing… you need to rethink it.
Bruce: You have to remain teachful. Any great leader is also a great follower. Become a sponge and absorb as much as you can, because knowledge is power. It really is. I know these two gentlemen who are with me now, all of us on a daily basis learn from our history of the group and the history of the business and the history of each other; that’s what makes us a family, that’s what makes us a unit. You’re as strong as your weakest link. If you don’t know about the next person you’re working with, how can you strengthen them and how can they strengthen you if you have no idea of their strengths or weaknesses?
ILM: Do you wake up each morning and feel proud of the amount you’ve achieved and the fact that you’ve provided the soundtrack to people’s lives? And do you have any ambitions left to achieve?
Joe: I thank God each morning for where I am. It didn’t have to be me. My ambitions are to continue and just become greater in following the path that I walk.
Terry: Cheryl, we constantly thank ourselves and thank God for the opportunity. There are a lot of factors, like being able to go out to perform all over the world, which is a great pleasure and we feel blessed. There are still goals ahead. We want to continue to provide the best music we possibly can for our audience and to win over new fans too.
ILM: You’ve won Grammy’s and appeared in numerous Halls of Fame any interesting anecdotes or stories about the most inspirational people you’ve met along the way?
Terry: At the Grammys you see your peers, and of course you always run into people you admire. But there was this guy who came up to me after our performance. He was a Vietnam veteran and the things he told me absolutely touched my soul. He said this music was the reason why he came back from Vietnam. That music gave him the strength to go on every day and it was a piece of home that he could hold on to and it could save him and help him get through all that turmoil and chaos and make it home. To this day it was his therapy. That touched me more than any award or anything. When a music that you enjoy touches them in such a way, that’s bigger than anything.
ILM: What is your biggest temptation in life, something you can’t resist?
Terry: Since I’ve been in this group, it’s got to be laughter. That’s one thing that we never lose, the ability to laugh.