|Birth name||Otis Miles Jr.|
October 30, 1941|
Texarkana, Texas, U.S.
|Origin||Detroit, Michigan, U.S.|
|Associated acts||The Temptations|
Williams is best known as the founder and last surviving original member of the Motown vocal group The Temptations, a group in which he continues to perform; he also owns the rights to the Temptations name.
Williams was born Otis Miles, Jr. in Texarkana, Texas to Otis Miles and Hazel Louise Williams, an unmarried couple who separated shortly after their son's birth. 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. Hazel Williams moved her son to Detroit when he was ten years old, where he lived with his mother and his stepfather.
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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. Future Distants recordings were not as successful, and after an offer from Berry Gordy of Motown Records, Williams and his friends/bandmates Elbridge "Al" Bryant and Melvin Franklin 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".
The Temptations eventually became one of the most successful acts in black music over the course of its nearly five-decade existence, over which time notable 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. In fact, the group's lineup changes were so frequent, stressful and troublesome that Williams and Melvin Franklin promised each other they would never quit the group. 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 Temptations quintet.
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 a NBC television miniseries The Temptations. Williams was portrayed by actor Charles Malik Whitfield.
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". The Smokey Robinson and Eddie Kendrick written track "Don't Send Me Away" from the LP The Temptations with a Lot o' Soul (1967), the intro on early group song "Check Yourself" (1961) and the Norman Whitfield-penned tune "I Ain't Got Nothing" from 1972's All Directions are extremely rare showcases for Williams singing lead. 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), and during the opening verse of "Masterpiece" (1973).
Williams married Josephine Rogers in 1961; the couple's son, Otis Lamont, was born the same year. He and Josephine divorced in 1964. Otis Lamont Williams was a construction worker who died in a workplace accident in Detroit in 1983.
Williams was married to Ann Cain from 1967 to 1973. He married his third wife, Arleata "Goldie" Williams (née Carter), in 1983. Arleata Williams' daughter Elan Carter became 1994's Playboy's Playmate of the Month for June 1994.
In popular culture
- Charles Malik Whitfield portrayed Williams in the 1998 NBC-TV miniseries The Temptations.
- Aint Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, a musical based on Williams' Memoir "The Temptations" premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theater in September 2017. Williams was played by Derrick Baskin.
- Ankeny, Jason. "Biography: The Temptations". Allmusic. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
- 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
- Higgins, Chester (April 1971-February 22, 2013). "The Temptations". Ebony. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
- List of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees
- Williams, Otis and Romanowski, Patricia (1988, updated 2002). Temptations. Lanham, MD: Cooper Square. ISBN 0-8154-1218-5. pg. 52-53
- "RUFFIN-STEINBACK v. dePASSE (UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT)" (PDF). September 28, 2001. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
- Williams and Romanowski (1988, updated 2002), pp. 214-15
- Williams and Romanowski (1988, updated 2002), pg. 122-123
- 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
-  Archived March 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- Otis Williams' official website
- Otis Williams interview by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul' March 2010
- Otis Williams on AngelFire
- Interview with Otis Williams by Gary James at Classic Bands.