Thursday, September 11, 2008


Paul was so a unique individual, no one would be able to take Paul’s place because besides being able to sing and dance, his concept of how to put things together helped the Tempts were so unique, that he was a very special force.
Otis Williams
The Definitive Collection

Paul Williams was the creative force behind the legendary Temptations. He was the one who gave the group it’s spirit, drive and dance moves; he also help the group have sex appeal, and sell sex without it being though as being taboo or sinful. Sadly, his own spirit was robbed by health problems and alcoholism, which drove him into depression and unfortunately, suicide, leaving a void in the group and the Motown legacy that has yet to be filled. This article honors his memory, legacy and contribution to one of the greatest groups to come from the Motown label and era.
Paul was born on August 2, 1939 to Sophia Williams in Birmingham Alabama, and like most kids raised in the South, Paul honed his skills by singing in church, but he also listened to other styles of music including Jazz and Blues, and by the time he began school, he began to dance., learning from Peg Leg Bates, an dancer with a wooden leg, who would out dance anybody.
During his teens, he met neighbor Eddie Kendricks, who would become his best friend until his death. Wanting to pursue a career in music, he convinced his friend to leave Alabama behind and migrate up north, settling in Cleveland, and later Detroit where he and Kendricks linked with Kel Osborne and formed the group The Primes, who performed with a sister act named The Primettes, (who would later become The Supremes) at Sock-Hops, often sharing the bill with Detroit natives Otis Williams & The Distantsm who were amazed by The Primes’ singing and dancing styles. Little did they know they would wind up combining their talents together. In 1961, Kendricks called Otis who had informed him that two members of his group had left, and was in need of a tenor they had an audition with Motown Records. Eddie accepted, and asked if he could bring Paul into the group. “As good as Paul is, hell yes” Otis wrote in his autobiography “Temptations.” The two linked up with Otis, Melvin Franklin and Eldrige Bryant, and became The Temptaions, where Paul did more than arrange with the vocal harmonies, he began to teach the group routines.
“Paul said ‘now look, we can’t just stand there. Otis said on the group’s DVD “Get Ready; The Definitive collection’ “We got to dance. We got to sell sex. We got to be flashy.”
“Paul was a fabulous dancer and elements of his style were later evident in all the Temptations great moves.” former Primette and original Supreme Mary Wilson wrote in her autobiography “Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme.” The steps that Paul created were clever, sexy, and unique.”
That’s what made the Temptations stand out from the other Motown groups. After they signed with the label, they recorded many singles with produced the label’s founder Berry Gordy including “Oh Mother of Mine” with Paul on lead, didn’t do well, but the follow ups “I Want A Love I Can See” and “Farewell My Love” with production by Smokey Robinson made some noise, but didn’t do as well as the company and group hoped, but they continued to make an impact with their live performances, with the crowd calling them back for encores, though they were the opening act. By 1963, things Bryant’s drinking and attitude began to affect his behavior and relationship with the group, and one night Bryant got angry and hit Paul with a bottle after he refused to return to the stage for an encore, and though the group wanted to let him go, Paul was against the idea, so they kept him until he was replaced by David Ruffin, who would dominate most of the leads, leaving Paul to sing background and do album cuts and b-sides. At the end of 1965, the group released their classic “Don’t Look Back” with Paul singing lead, and it featured one of the group’s classic routines, which featured the group fanned out across the stage with him in the middle singing with soul and passion, but it would be the last single that featured him singing lead. The following year, the group released their single “Get Ready” and shortly before a scheduled performance on “American Bandstand” Paul came up with the routine in thirty-two minutes, and it became a hit with the fans. Paul had also wanted the group to come off the chitling circuit and play better venues.
“Man we’ve got to play Vegas and Atlantic City” Paul told the group “The white folks don’t want to see no guys out there bumpin’ and grindin’ and carrying on.” Neither did the his band mates or Motown; who felt that their artists needed to start performing in supper clubs, so in 1966, the group released their album “In a Mellow Mood” an album of standards, which Paul had resisted doing out of fear that their fans particularly those in the Black community would label them sell-outs, but the album did well, and helped them appear at the Copacabana, where the audience loved his rendition of the classic “For Once In My Life” which was one of his show stopping numbers that had audience members moved to tears. By the late 1960’s the group had began recording Psychedelic Soul music, which featured social conscious lyrics and the group sharing lead vocals with Ruffin’s replacement Dennis Edwards, and scoring with “Cloud Nine” which earned them Motown’s first Grammy Award, Runaway Child, Running Wild,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” and “Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today).” They had also filmed two television specials with The Supremes, and their special T.C.B.” featured Paul’s signature song “The Impossible Dream,” but the success was bitter sweet. Suffering from sickle-cell anemia (something that he never informed his band-mates), and having the group’s chirography being supervised by Cholly Atkins and Lon Fontaine, Paul began to drink heavily, which caused him to perform terribly and gasp for air, and though the group did what they could by having interventions and pouring his hidden stashes down the drain, his health began to fail.
“Paul was our strength. The spirit of our group.” Otis said in the liner notes for “Emperor of Soul” To see somebody go from drinking milk to alcohol on a regular basis was a traumatic experience for all of us.” With his health worsening, Richard Street was hired to sing Paul’s part backstage, except for his special numbers, and on January 31, 1971, Paul made his last television appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, when the group performed their single “Just My Imagination (Runnin’ Away With Me).” which topped the charts a few weeks later. A few months later, a doctor found a spot on his liver, which forced Street to take his place, but the group, however decided to have keep him on payroll and to help them create routines, but Paul continued drinking and feeling depressed over the closing of a boutique he opened with his mistress Winnie Brown, which left owing $80,000 in taxes. His financial problems and not being able to performed forced him to become more depressed. and on August 17, 1973, Paul was found dead two blocks away from the Hitsville studios. The official report was that Paul had committed suicide with a single gun shot to his head. Many were sadden by his death, and over 24,000 thousand family and friends attended his funeral including his wife and six children, and his band mates, who were too choked up to perform, though they served as pallbearers and when they arrived at the cemetery, Eddie had gently kissed Paul on his face. Though his death was ruled as a suicide, there are many including his family, who still believe that his death wasn’t a suicide; they believe that he was murdered, but he had expressed suicidal thoughts to many of his closest friends and. In 1982, the group dedicated its “Reunion” album and tour to Paul’s memory, while former Supremes lead singer Diana Ross, featured a tribute to him in her hit video “Missing You.” On January 18, 1989, Paul was posthumously inducted into the Rock of Hall of Fame as a member of The Temptations, where Kendricks accepted on his behalf, while, he. Otis, Melvin, David and Dennis sang his signature song “Don’t Look Back” after they accepted their awards. In 1995, Motown released a CD with two of Paul’s unreleased solo songs including “Feel Like Givin’ Up, and three years later actor/singer Christian Payton won wave reviews for his portrayal of Paul in the award-winning mini-series “Temptations.” which gave viewers a chance to see how talented he was, and how good of a heart he had.
Paul Williams was a talented and creative man, who gave a lot to the world and his bandmates; he gave them the strengh, drive, and polish to become the legends that they are today, and though he's gone, he's memory and spirit contiues to live on.

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