Dennis Edwards, former lead singer of legendary Motown group Temptations, has died at 74. Per a Los Angeles Times report, his longtime booking agent Rosalind Triche Roberts said Edwards died in Chicago on Thursday, (Feb.1) after battling a long illness.
Edwards joined Temptations in 1968, replacing founding member David Ruffin. He sang with the group on and off from 1968-1989 and pursued a solo career in the mid-‘80s. He scored a solo hit in 1984 with “Don’t Look Any Further,” featuring Siedah Garrett (Watch the official music video for the track above). Edwards led Temptations through it’s psychedelic, funk and disco periods. His distinct, gospel-infused tone can be heard on a bevy of Temptations hits including Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping singles “I Can’t Get Next to You” (1969), and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1972).
Edwards’ first song with the group, “Cloud Nine,” won the Temptations and Motown Records their first Grammy Award in 1969. “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” snagged three more Grammys for Best R&B Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus, Best R&B Song (for writers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong) and Best R&B Instrumental Performance (for the B-side of the single, without vocals).
Edwards was born in Fairfield, Alabama and moved with his family to Detroit, Michigan, where he grew up as a preacher's son. He joined a gospel vocal group and reportedly studied at the Detroit Conservatory of Music, prior to launching his professional music career. He joined and sang with the Contours before becoming a Temptations member in 1968. Edwards was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, along with Temptations members Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, Otis Williams, and Paul Williams.
Edwards was also inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame as a member of The Temptations in 2013. He formed and led another group, Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards in the ‘90s. He performed with The Temptations Review up until he died.
Fellow Motown legend Martha Reeves, of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, expressed sadness about Edwards’ passing to the Detroit Free Press saying, “My heart is very heavy. I feel like I’ve been hit by a sledgehammer.”
Motown founder Berry Gordy reportedly offered his condolences to Edwards’ family in a statement last Friday. He said, “I am saddened about the passing of the one and only, Dennis Edwards. Another bright light from our Motown family is gone.” He also spoke fondly of their relationship saying, “…Whenever we would greet each other, it was bear hugs and warm smiles.”
Edwards would have turned 75 on Feb. 3.