Eddie Kendricks

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Eddie Kendricks
Kendricks in 1972
Kendricks in 1972
Background information
Birth nameEdward James Kendrick[1]
Born(1939-12-17)December 17, 1939
Union Springs, Alabama, U.S.
OriginEnsley, Alabama, U.S.
DiedOctober 5, 1992(1992-10-05) (aged 52)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.[2]
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active1955–1992
Formerly ofThe Temptations

Edward James Kendrick[3] (December 17, 1939[2] – October 5, 1992),[4] better known as Eddie Kendricks, was an American tenor singer and songwriter. Noted for his distinctive falsetto singing style, Kendricks co-founded the Motown singing group the Temptations, and was one of their lead singers from 1960 until 1971. He was the lead voice on such famous songs as "The Way You Do the Things You Do", "Get Ready", and "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)". As a solo artist, Kendricks recorded several hits of his own during the 1970s including the number-one singles "Keep On Truckin'" and "Boogie Down."

Life and career[edit]

Early years: 1939–1960[edit]

Kendricks was born to Johnny and Lee Bell Kendrick[5] in Union Springs, Alabama on December 17, 1939.[6] He had one sister, Patricia, and three brothers, Charles, Robert, and Clarence.[citation needed] His family moved to the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham, where he met and began singing with his best friend Paul Williams in their church choir in the late 1940s. In 1955, Kendricks, Williams as well as their friends Kell Osborne and Jerome Averette formed a doo-wop group called the Cavaliers; they began performing around Birmingham. The group decided to move for better opportunities in their musical careers, and in 1957, the group moved to Cleveland, Ohio living on E. 123rd Street and Kinsman Road. In Cleveland, they met manager Milton Jenkins, and soon moved with Jenkins to Detroit where the Cavaliers renamed themselves the Primes.[6] Under Jenkins' management, the Primes were successful in the Detroit area, eventually creating a female spin-off group called the Primettes (later becoming the Supremes). In 1961, Osbourne moved to California, and the Primes disbanded. Kendricks and Paul Williams joined forces with members Elbridge “Al” Bryant in addition to Otis Williams and Melvin "Blue" Franklin from Otis Williams and the Distants after two members quit. They became the Elgins; on the same day the group changed their name to the Temptations and signed to Motown.[citation needed]

The Temptations: 1960–1971[edit]

The Temptations began singing background for Mary Wells. After an initial dry period, the Temptations quickly became the most successful male vocal group of the 1960s. Although technically Kendricks was first tenor in the group's harmony, he often sang in the falsetto register.[6] Among the Temptations songs, Kendricks sang lead on were "Dream Come True" (1962), the group's first charting single; "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (1964),[6] the group's first US Top 20 hit; "I'll Be in Trouble" (1964); "The Girl's Alright With Me" (1964), a popular B-side that Kendricks co-wrote; "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" (1964); "Get Ready" (1966);[6] "Please Return Your Love to Me" (1968); and "Just My Imagination" (1971).[6] He was also allowed to sing a few leads in his lower registers such as "May I Have This Dance" (1962). He shared lead vocal duty on other records, including "You're My Everything" (1967) (shared with David Ruffin), and a long string of Norman Whitfield produced psychedelic soul records where all five Temptations sang lead, such as the Grammy winner "Cloud Nine" (1968), "I Can't Get Next to You" (1969), and "Ball of Confusion" (1970). He also leads on "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (1968), a popular duet with Diana Ross and the Supremes, and on the Temptations' version of the Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1968).

In the Temptations, Kendricks was responsible for creating most of the group's vocal arrangements, and also served as wardrobe manager, including the now famous purple suits the group wore for one performance. Though Whitfield had chief responsibility for writing, Kendricks co-wrote and received credit for several Temptations songs apart from "The Girl's Alright With Me" including "Isn't She Pretty" (1961) and "Don't Send Me Away" (1967). His favorite food was cornbread, and as a result he was nicknamed "Cornbread" (or "Corn" for short) by his groupmates. According to Otis Williams, Kendricks romantically pursued Diana Ross, lead singer of the Supremes, and he was said to have been close friends with Martha Reeves of the Vandellas. In her second book, Supreme Faith, Supremes singer Mary Wilson writes that she and Kendricks were lovers "briefly," but remained close friends.

Kendricks remained in the group through the rest of the decade, but a number of issues began to push him away from it in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was uncomfortable with singing the psychedelic style that Whitfield was now crafting for the group as opposed to the romantic ballads they had sung under the direction of Smokey Robinson;[6] his friend Paul Williams was often too ill to perform with the group; and Kendricks often found himself at odds with bandmates Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin. As he grew away from the group, Kendricks began to rekindle his friendship with ex-Temptation David Ruffin, who convinced him to leave.[citation needed]

In a 1991 interview with a Chicago television series called Urban Street, Kendricks said he had actually considered leaving the group as early as 1965, even though that was when the band was finally starting to take off, because of things that "weren't quite proper." He explained that they were working with people that "didn't have their best interests at heart." Kendricks, however, initially decided to stay in the group because he was worried he would not get the support he needed if he left. He also said that his relationship with Berry Gordy was less than cordial. "Berry Gordy is a man I don't know, I only met him about three times," he said, but "I know he didn't particularly care for me." Kendricks stated that he did not agree with many decisions that were made.

After one final altercation with Williams and Franklin during a run at the Copacabana nightclub in November 1970, Kendricks walked off after the first night and did not return, and it was mutually decided he would leave the group.[7] While working on his first solo album, Kendricks recorded one last hit single with the Temptations, 1971's "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)". By the time the record reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 in April 1971, Kendricks had signed a solo deal with Motown's Tamla division and was preparing the release of his first solo album, All By Myself.[4] However, many of his problems with Motown would reoccur.

Solo career and later years: 1971–1992[edit]

Cashbox advertisement, January 12, 1974

Kendricks' solo career began slowly; he endured two years of singles that missed the Top 40, while the Temptations continued with their string of Norman Whitfield-helmed hits (one of which, "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)", was written as a jab towards Kendricks and Ruffin). Despite enjoying only a modicum of commercial success and radio airplay, Kendricks's 1972 album People... Hold On (recorded with his touring group, the Young Senators, composed of Jimi Dougans, Frank Hooker, LeRoy Fleming, Wornell Jones, David Lecraft, James Drummer Johnson, and John Engram) was a cornerstone of DJ playlists in downtown New York's nascent disco scene. The expansive, eight-minute take on "Girl You Need a Change of Mind", which peaked at number 13 on the soul chart,[8] was a particular favorite at David Mancuso's Loft. The single was later remade by R&B singer D'Angelo for the Get on the Bus soundtrack. As the dance craze seeped through into other cities, Kendricks scored a number one pop hit in 1973 with the Frank Wilson-produced "Keep on Truckin'",[6] becoming the only member of the Temptations to register a number one hit in the U.S. as a solo artist. As well as reaching number 18 in the UK, it sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[9] Further hits included 1974's "Boogie Down" (US number 2, UK number 39) and another million selling release,[9] "Son of Sagittarius" (US number 28) from the same year, 1975's "Shoeshine Boy" (US number 18), and 1976's "He's a Friend" (US number 36). Another notable song is "Intimate Friends" (1977), which was sampled for the Alicia Keys song "Unbreakable", "A Penny for My Thoughts" by Common, Sparkle's "Time to Move on" on her self-titled first studio album, and for Sweet Sable's "Old Time's Sake" from the soundtrack for the 1994 2pac film, Above the Rim. Erykah Badu also sampled "Intimate Friends" for her song "Fall in Love (Your Funeral)", as well as his song "My People... Hold on" for her song "My People" on her album New Amerykah Part One (4th World War).

Exasperated by a lack of creative and financial control, Kendricks left Motown in 1978.[6] He moved first to Arista Records and later to Atlantic Records.[6] By this time, his popularity had waned, and he was also gradually losing his upper range as a result of chain smoking.

Kendricks and Ruffin re-joined the Temptations for a well-received 1982 reunion tour.[10] The group, then a seven-piece act, also recorded a reunion album, and enjoyed a hit with the Rick James-written-and-produced "Standing on the Top". Kendricks sang a few lead lines on the song but had no leads on any of the LP's other tracks. In an interview with Tom Meros, Dennis Edwards, Kendricks' former Temptations bandmate, claimed that Kendricks had problems hitting the higher notes during recording sessions for the album. Because of his singing difficulty, Edwards said that Kendricks went to a physician to examine his vocal ability. The physician discovered a "pin drop" of cancer on one of his lungs. However, Kendricks reportedly refused to undergo chemotherapy at the time because of fear that he would lose his hair.[11]

Ruffin and Kendrick (Kendricks dropped the "s" from his stage name during the 1980s) reportedly met up one night when Ruffin went to watch Kendrick perform in a nightclub; Kendrick spotted Ruffin in the crowd, pointed him out, and invited him to come up on stage and perform with him. Afterward they talked about touring on their own and recorded an album as a duo for RCA in 1988.[6]

Earlier, in 1985, they participated in the Hall & Oates live album, Live at The Apollo, recorded at a benefit at New York City's Apollo Theater; and sang with the duo at Live Aid in Philadelphia[6] and the MTV Video Music Awards in New York. Hall & Oates have cited Kendrick and Ruffin specifically, and the Temptations in general, as a major influence. Ruffin started touring with Kendrick as a duo act in 1985. The live medley of "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and "My Girl" was released as a single, reaching number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 12 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and number 40 on the R&B chart.[12][13] The single earned them a Grammy nomination.[14]

In 1989, Kendrick, Ruffin, and their Temptations bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There, Kendrick and Ruffin made plans with fellow former Temptation Dennis Edwards to tour and record as "Ruffin/Kendrick/Edwards, Former Leads of the Temptations". The Ruffin/Kendrick/ Edwards project was cut short in 1991, when Kendrick was diagnosed with lung cancer and David Ruffin died of a drug overdose,[15] although Kendrick and Edwards continued to tour for the remainder of 1991. After having surgery in late 1991, Kendricks resumed touring through the summer of 1992.


In late 1991 Kendricks, by now living in his native Birmingham, Alabama underwent surgery to have one of his lungs removed in the hope of preventing the spread of cancer.[10] He believed the disease was caused by his 30 years of smoking.[16] He continued to tour through the summer of 1992, when he fell ill again and was hospitalized.

Kendricks died of lung cancer at Baptist Medical Center-Princeton in Birmingham on October 5, 1992, at age 52.[17] He was survived by his three children: Parris, Aika, and Paul Kendricks (named after Paul Williams). A funeral service was held at the First Baptist Church in Ensley, Alabama. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham. Friends and fans paid tribute to Kendricks at four concerts, held at the Strand in Los Angeles, on October 16 and October 17, 1992. Performers including Bobby Womack, Chaka Khan, Mary Wilson, and Vesta Willams sang Temptations songs, as well as some of their own.[15]


Kendricks was nominated for four Grammy Awards, winning one for "Cloud Nine" with the Temptations in 1969.[14] The Temptations received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.[18] In 1998, NBC aired The Temptations, a four-hour television miniseries based upon an autobiographical book by Otis Williams. Kendricks was portrayed by actor Terron Brooks.

On October 16, 1999, Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park, located on the corner of 18th Street and 4th Avenue North, was dedicated to Birmingham native Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations. The park uses Kendricks' family name without the "s", which was added early in his career. The memorial features a bronze sculpture of Kendricks by local artist Ron McDowell as well as sculptures of the other Temptations, set into a granite wall. Inscribed on the granite are the names of Temptations' hit songs. Recorded music can be heard throughout the park, featuring songs by Kendricks and the Temptations.

In 1989, Kendricks was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Temptations. Rapper Kendrick Lamar was named by his mother after Kendricks.[19] In 2019, Kendricks was inducted as a solo artist into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.


With The Temptations[edit]



Tamla (Motown) releases
Year Album Chart positions
1971 All by Myself
  • Released on April, 1971
80 6
1972 People ... Hold On
  • Released on May, 1972
131 13
1973 Eddie Kendricks
  • Released on May, 1973
18 5
1974 Boogie Down!
  • Released on February, 1974
30 1
1974 For You
  • Released on December, 1974
108 8
1975 The Hit Man
  • Released on July, 1975
63 9
1976 He's a Friend
  • Released on February, 1976
38 3
1976 Goin' Up in Smoke
  • Released on September, 1976
114 22
1977 Slick
  • Released on August, 1977
Arista releases
Year Album Chart positions
1978 Vintage '78 180 33
1979 Something More 68
Atlantic release
  • 1981: Love Keys (US R&B #62)
Ms. Dixie release
  • 1983: I've Got My Eyes on You

as Daryl Hall & John Oates with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick

RCA release

as Ruffin and Kendrick

RCA release


Tamla (Motown) releases
Year Title and Catalog Number Peak Chart Positions Album
US Dance
1971 "This Used to Be the Home of Johnnie Mae" (T 54203)

b/w "It's So Hard for Me to Say Goodbye"

88 (b-side)
37 (b-side)
All by Myself
"I Did It All for You" (T 54210F)

b/w "Can I?"

37 (b-side)
1972 "Let Me Run into Your Lonely Heart" (T 54218F)

b/w "Eddie's Love"

77 (b-side)
35 (b-side)
People ... Hold On
"If You Let Me" (T 54222F)

b/w "Just Memories"

"Girl, You Need a Change of Mind (Part 1)" (T 54230F)

b/w "Girl, You Need a Change of Mind (Part 2)"

1973 "Darling, Come Back Home" (T 54236F)

b/w "Loving You the Second Time Around" (from Boogie Down)

Eddie Kendricks
"Keep on Truckin' (Part 1)" (T 54238F)

b/w "Keep on Truckin' (Part 2)"

"Boogie Down" (T 54243F)

b/w "Can't Help What I Am" (from Eddie Kendricks)

Boogie Down
1974 "Son of Sagittarius" (T 54247F)

b/w "Trust Your Heart"

"Tell Her Love Has Felt the Need" (T 54249F)

b/w "Loving You the Second Time Around"

"One Tear" (T 54255F)

b/w "The Thin Man" (from Boogie Down)

For You
1975 "Shoeshine Boy" (T 54257F)

b/w "Hooked on Your Love" (from Boogie Down)

"Get the Cream Off the Top" (T 54260F)

b/w "Honey Brown" (from Boogie Down)

The Hit Man
"Happy" (T 54263F)

b/w "Deep and Quiet Love"

1976 "He's a Friend" (T 54266F)

b/w "All of My Love"

He's a Friend
"Get It While It's Hot" (T 54270F)

b/w "Never Gonna Leave You"

"Goin' Up in Smoke" (T 54277F)

b/w "Thanks for the Memories"

Goin' Up in Smoke
1977 "Born Again" (T 54285F)

b/w "Date with the Rain" (from People ... Hold On)

"Intimate Friends" (T 54290F)

b/w "Baby"

"—" denotes a single that was not released in that territory or did not chart
Arista releases
Year Title and Catalog Number Peak Chart Positions Album
US Dance
1978 "Ain't No Smoke Without Fire" (AS 3025)

b/w "Love Love Love"

Vintage '78
"The Best of Strangers Now" (AS 0346)

b/w "Don't Underestimate the Power of Love"

1979 "I Just Want To Be The One In Your Life" (AS 0466)

b/w "I Can't Let You Walk Away"

Something More
Atlantic release
Year Title and Catalog Number Peak Chart Positions Album
1981 "(Oh I) Need Your Loving" (3796)

b/w "Looking for Love"

Love Keys
Ms. Dixie release
  • 1983: I'm In Love With You
Corner Stone release
  • 1984: Surprise Attack (US R&B #87)
RCA release
  • 1985: "A Night at the Apollo Live!" (US R&B #40, US Pop #20, US AC #12, UK #58)[24] (Daryl Hall and John Oates featuring David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick)
  • 1987: "I Couldn't Believe It" (Ruffin & Kendrick) (US R&B #14, US AC #48, UK #85)
  • 1988: "One More for the Lonely Hearts Club" (Ruffin & Kendrick) (US R&B #43)


  1. ^ "Eddie Kendricks". WBSS Media. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Buried Here - Eddie Kendricks, a Lead Singer of the Temptations". Rock and Roll Roadmaps. December 19, 2015. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
  3. ^ "Kendricks' tenor made it impossible to resist Temptations APPRECIATION". Baltimore Sun. October 7, 1992. Retrieved April 29, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Henderson, Alex. "Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  5. ^ "Eddie Kendricks, 52; Sang With the Temptations". The New York Times. October 7, 1992. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 145/6. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  7. ^ Williams, Otis and Romanowski, Patricia (1988, updated 2002). Temptations. Lanham, MD: Cooper Square. ISBN 0-8154-1218-5.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 319.
  9. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 329. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  10. ^ a b "Singer Eddie Kendricks Mourned By Music World". Jet. October 26, 1992. pp. 53–54, 60.
  11. ^ Meros, Tom. "Dennis Edwards (Interview)". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  12. ^ "Billboard Hot 100" (PDF). Billboard. October 12, 1985. p. 75.
  13. ^ "Daryl Hall & John Oates Chart History". Billboard.
  14. ^ a b "Eddie Kendricks". Recording Academy Grammy Awards.
  15. ^ a b "Friends, Fans Pay Tribute To Late Temptations Singer Eddie Kendricks Ar Concerts". Jet. Vol. 83, no. 3. November 9, 1992. p. 60.
  16. ^ "Obituary: Eddie Kendricks". The Independent. October 7, 1992. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  17. ^ Billboard. October 17, 1992. p. 12. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  18. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Award: The Temptations". Recording Academy Grammy Awards. January 28, 2013.
  19. ^ Miranda J (September 18, 2013). "Did You Know Kendrick Lamar Was Named After One Of The Temptations?". XXL Mag. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  20. ^ a b "Eddie Kendricks - Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  21. ^ a b "Eddie Kendricks - Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2022.
  22. ^ a b c d e f "Eddie Kendricks Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography". Music VF. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  23. ^ "EDDIE KENDRICKS - full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  24. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 298–299. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.

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