Otis Williams

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Otis Williams
Williams in 1999
Williams in 1999
Background information
Birth nameOtis Miles Jr.
Born (1941-10-30) October 30, 1941 (age 82)
Texarkana, Texas, U.S.
OriginDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • producer
Years active1958–present

Otis Williams (born Otis Miles Jr.; October 30, 1941) is an American tenor/baritone singer.[1][2] He is occasionally also a songwriter and a record producer. Williams is the founder and last surviving original member of the Motown vocal group The Temptations,[1] a group in which he continues to perform; he also owns the rights to the Temptations name.

Early life[edit]

Williams was born Otis Miles Jr.[2][3] in Texarkana, Texas, to Otis Miles and Hazel Louise Williams. The couple separated shortly after their son's birth.[2] While he was still a toddler, his mother married and moved to Detroit, Michigan, leaving the younger Otis Miles to be raised by both of his grandmothers in Texarkana.[2]

Hazel Williams moved her son to Detroit when he was ten years old, where he lived with his mother and his stepfather.[2]



Becoming interested in music as a teenager, Otis Miles Jr. adopted his mother's maiden name for his stage name, and as Otis Williams put together a number of singing groups. These groups included Otis Williams and the Siberians, the El Domingoes, and the Distants. In 1959, The Distants scored a local hit, co-written by Williams and their manager/producer Johnnie Mae Matthews, called "Come On", with lead vocals by Richard Street. Later Distants recordings were not as successful, and after an offer from Berry Gordy of Motown Records,[4]: 41, 48  Williams and his friends/bandmates Elbridge "Al" Bryant and Richard Street quit the Distants. Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams from The Primes later joined Williams, Bryant, and Franklin to create the Elgins, who signed to Motown in March 1961 as "The Temptations", after being told another group was already using that name.[4]: 48–49 

Williams (bottom right) with The Temptations in 1964.

The Temptations became one of the most successful acts in soul music over the course of nearly five decades, during which singers such as David Ruffin, Dennis Edwards, former Distant Richard Street, Damon Harris, Ron Tyson, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Theo Peoples, Ray Davis and former Spinners singer G. C. Cameron have all been members. As a member of the Temptations, he sings both Tenor and Baritone vocals.

The Temptations biggest selling tracks include: My Girl, and (I Know) I'm Losing You, among many others. The groups have won four Grammy Awards, and have been nominated for nine.[5]

Although he has served the longest tenure in the Temptations, Williams rarely sings lead, focusing instead on his role as the group's leader and organizer, and as the background "baritone in the middle". Some examples are, The Smokey Robinson and Eddie Kendricks written track "Don't Send Me Away" from the LP The Temptations with a Lot o' Soul (1967) and the intro on the early group song "Check Yourself" (1961).

Most notably, rare showcases for Williams singing lead are: "This Guy's in Love with You" from the 1968 albums Live at London's Talk of the Town and Diana Ross & The Supremes Join the Temptations and The Norman Whitfield-penned tune "I Ain't Got Nothing" from 1972's All Directions

Williams has provided non-singing (spoken word) contributions to some Temptation songs, including: "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (1968, a hit duet with Diana Ross and Eddie Kendricks sharing the lead vocals), "I'm the Exception to the Rule", from the album Sky's the Limit (The Temptations album) (1971) which features leads from both Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards, During the opening verse of "Masterpiece" (1973), and "For Your Love", which is done in a medley with "You Send Me" (led by Ali-Ollie Woodson) on the For Lovers Only album (1995).


The Temptations lineup changes were so frequent, stressful and troublesome that Williams and Melvin Franklin promised each other they would never quit the group.[4]: 146–147  Franklin would remain in the group until 1994, when he became physically incapable of continuing. Franklin died on February 23, 1995, leaving Otis Williams, then 53, as the last surviving original member of the quintet.[4]: 223 

Williams still remains in the Temptations as of 2023, has performed on every release by the band, including their most recent studio album, Temptations 60, released on January 28, 2022, which also included a collaboration with Motown artist Smokey Robinson.[6]

Additional works[edit]

Williams is the co-author, with Patricia Romanowski, of Temptations, a 1988 book that served as both his autobiography and a history of the group. Ten years later, the book was adapted into an NBC television miniseries The Temptations. Williams was portrayed by actor Charles Malik Whitfield.

Personal life[edit]

Williams married Josephine Rogers in 1961;[4]: 52–53 [7] the couple's son, Otis Lamont Miles, was born the same year.[4]: 52–53 [7] He and Josephine divorced in 1964. Otis Lamont Miles was a construction worker who died from falling off a building in a workplace accident in Detroit in 1985.[4]: 214–15  Williams was engaged to Patti LaBelle. She ended the engagement when he asked her to quit music and become a housewife.[citation needed]

Williams was married to Ann Cain from 1967 to 1973.[4]: 122–123  Cain was Ike Turner and Tina Turner's housekeeper.[8] He married his third wife, Arleata "Goldie" Williams (née Carter), in 1983.[9] Arleata Williams' daughter Elan Carter became 1994's Playboy's Playmate of the Month for June 1994.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1989, Otis Williams was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Temptations.[11][12] Williams received an honorary doctorate from Stillman College in May 2006.[13][14]

In popular culture[edit]

The musical then debuted on the West End in the Prince Edward Theatre in 2023.



  1. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "Biography: The Temptations". AllMusic. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ribowsky, Mark (2010). Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Endearing Soul of the Temptations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 7–9
  3. ^ Higgins, Chester (April 1971 – February 22, 2013:). "The Temptations". Ebony. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Williams, Otis and Romanowski, Patricia (1988, updated 2002). Temptations. Lanham, MD: Cooper Square. ISBN 0-8154-1218-5.
  5. ^ "The Temptations". www.grammy.com. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
  6. ^ Greene, Andy (September 24, 2021). "The Temptations Celebrate 60th Anniversary With New Smokey Robinson-Penned Song". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
  7. ^ a b "RUFFIN-STEINBACK v. dePASSE (UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT)" (PDF). September 28, 2001. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
  8. ^ Turner, Tina; Loder, Kurt (1986). I, Tina: My Life Story. Internet Archive. New York : Avon Books. pp. 103–104. ISBN 978-0-380-70097-4.
  9. ^ Ribowsky, Mark (2010). Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Endearing Soul of the Temptations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 263
  10. ^ [1] Archived March 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "The Temptations Rock and Roll Hall of Fame".
  12. ^ "Who are the next Rock & Roll Hall of Famers?". Future Rock Legends. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
  13. ^ "About". The Temptations. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
  14. ^ "From Our Town to Motown". www.txkmag.com. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
  15. ^ "Review Roundup: AIN'T TOO PROUD - The Temptations Musical - at Berkeley Repertory Theatre". Broadwayworld.com.

External links[edit]