Tuesday, June 1, 2010
FORMER TEMPTATION LEADSINGER ALI-OLLIE WOODSON JOINS MOTOWN REVUE IN HEAVEN
Motown Legend and former Temptations lead signer/songwriter Ali-Ollie Woodson died over the Memorial Day weekend after battling cancer. He was 58. Woodson is best known for his Gospel-trained singing and shouting, but he was also a talented songwriter, musician and arranger, who had co-wrote the group's 1984 comeback hit "Treat Her Like A Lady" with the group's founder Otis Williams (See Motown Flashback-The Tempts Classic Anthm for Women October 24, 2009), which is still a favorite among R&B music lovers around the world. This artile highlights his career.
Woodson was born on October 12, 1951 in Detroit Michiagan and like many Detroiters, he started singing at the church choir at a young age. It was singing in the choir that helped him learn apprection for harmonies. By the time he reached his adoloence and teenage years, he became fascinated by the sounds of Motown and a huge fan of The Temptations, who one of the label's and world's most loved, respected and emulated groups of all times. While many of the city's youth would rush to the Fox Theatre to see them perform, Ali-Ollie had the honor of seeing the group's lead singer David Ruffin on a daily basis.
"When I was nine or ten living in Detroit, every evening around dusk, I would see David Ruffin leave his house and go by on his motorcylce" Woodson said in the liner notes of The Temptation's boxed set "Emperors of Soul." I got a thrill out of that."
Shortly after his 19th birthday, Ali-Ollie was hired by Bill Pinkley of the Drifters as a singer and musician, but he his big break came in 1977 when he learned that The Temptations were leaving Motown for Atlantic and were in search of a lead singer to replace Dennis Edwards, the group's lead singer at the time. Ali-Ollie won them over with his pipes, but he lost in the hair department.
"For some strange reason he had Orangish hair, which was a little rough on the eyes" The Temptations' founder Otis Williams wrote in his autobiography "Temptations." "We weren't sure that he would blend in with the Tempt's visiual image, so we passed on him." Ali understood and later became the lead singer of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes replacing Teddy Pendergrass and later working with various bands and singers and writing songs. In 1983, millions of fans had tuned into Motown 25, and along with Michael Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean." everybody enjoyed the seagment were the Temptations and The Four Tops performed a battle while singina a medley of their songs inlcuding Ali-Ollie, who got more than a thrill watching. On the group's Motown on Showtime special, Ali spoke of how a chill came over his body as he watched Levi sing The Tempt's classic "I Know I'm Losing You."
"As Levi looked and Dennis and sang It's all over your face. Someone's taking your plance, a cold chill came over my body and I was like could it be me?"
The answer was yes. Shortly after the Motown special, The Tempts hwere working on their "Back To Basics" album, when Edwards' personal issues was affecting his performances, and when the group knew that it was time to replace him, Melvin Franklin, the late bass singer had informed Otis that his mother was good friends with Ali's father, and when he informed his mother of the issues they were having with Edwards, she told Ali's father to get in touch with the group, who told him to meet them in Atlanta and when he arrived he didn't have that orangish colored hair anymore. In stead his hair was full of curls. "He done something with his hair, so he looked better." Williams wrote in "Temptations." "Richard asked him to squall for us and he squalled; the audition was over. We told him to be packed and ready to leave for Los Angelas, where we were recording Basics." Though the album was almost coplete, Ali did sang lead on the album track "Stop The World Right Here I Wanna Get Off" which was only a taste of his talent. When the group began to work on their next album, Ali-Ollie not only blessed the group with his vocals, he also displayed his songwriting and arranging talents, which would help The Temptations become more than a singing group. "Ollie was a songwriter, so when Melvin's interest in writing with me declined I paired up with Ollie. His strong suit was melodies; he played several instruments in addition to being a flexible singer" Williams wrote.
Former Earth, Wind & Fire member Al Mc Kay was also impressed with Ali-Ollie's talent. While he and Ralph Randolph was producing the group, he challenged them to be better musicians.
"Ollie challenged me. 'Man you should play piano like this'" Mc Kay said in the Emperor of Soul boxed set liner notes. "Then he went out there and showed me." In the fall of 1984, The Temptation's album "Truly For You" was released to rave reviews and became an instant classic and favorite among the fans and Williams, who with Ali-Ollie co-wrote the album's lead gold single "Treat Her Like A Lady" which became the group's biggest hit of the 1980's peaking at # 2 on the R&B/Soul charts and # 48 on the Pop charts.
"It's one of my favorites and not because I wrote part of it" Otis wrote in the liner note of "My Girl: The Very Best of The Temptations." "It was one of those songs that never seems to fade." The song also showed the critics and young kids who were rocking to the sounds of Hip-Hop, and New Wave that the Temptations were able to keep up with the times without losing their idenities. In fact,the song was so hot that many teenaged boys would sing and/lip-synch this song in talent shows and wound up winning first and second place. While Ali's vocal style was similiar to Edwards, he had the ability to ad-lib amd hit high notes in both tenor and falsetto style. He also had a style look and vibe that connected him with females and males.
"He had this swagger about himself. He was cool. He had a coolness about himself that was really very inviting," Billy Wilson, President of the Motown Alumni Association said.
Ali-Ollie also had great showman ship and a great sense of humor which he blended together in concert. Right before the group would perform, "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," Ali would tell the men, 'fellas, I want you to turn to your woman, look her in the eyes and say baby,' and before you knew it, he was sining the opening line of the classic, which would have men shocked and laughing. Right before he performed "Treat Her Like A Lady," he would speak about the ladies needs, and would launch into the classic.
Ali also co-wrote the group's follow up albums "Touch Me" and "To Be Continued.." along with singing on the singles "Do You Really Love Your Baby," "Lady Soul" "To Be Continued,," and "Someone" which showcased his Gospel roots. During his first tenuere with the Temptations they had embarked on a successful tour with The Four Tops on the legendary T-N-T tour and performed on the special "Motown Returns To The Apollo" and on "Moonlighting" where the star Bruce Williams asked the group to perform on his single "Under The Boardwalk" which became a huge hit in the UK and in Europe.
Ali-Ollie was a great asset to The Temptations, but unfortantley, he began to have personal issues and show up late for performances, which would force Otis to confront him about his latness with pep talks in hotel rooms. "I've been around some singing ass brothers and you can hold your own wit the best of them and I'm including David Ruffina nd Dennis Edwards. But if you don't get your act together, you're going to be sorry" Otis told him constantly. In January 1987, he was let go and Dennis Edwards had retuuned to the group, but during the summer of 1988. Edwards left permantely, and Ali-Ollie was given another opportunity and he didn't disappoint. In fact, when the group performed at Radio City Music Hall and at Showtime on The Apollo, the fans were happy that he had returned. Especially when the group performed "Treat Her Like A Lady."
"I had my ups and downs" he confessed in the "Emperors of Soul" liner notes. "But I picked myself up and dusted myself off. I survived." When he retunred, Motown had been sold to MCA Records and under the leadership of Jheryl Busby, the group had recorded two albums "Special" and "Milestone" and scored with the singles "All I Want From You." "Special" and "Soul To Soul" which became a favorite among fans thanks to the video being in heavy rotation on Video Soul. While the latter album wasn't a big hit, it was the group's 50th album and critics had noticed Ali's ability to make a song his own. Especially on the album's single "Hoops of Fire." which he sang to his wife while cutting it. "My girlfriend at the time-my wife now-was sitting in the control room and I looked straight at her. I said baby I love you baby' and sang the first lines.
During his second tenure with the Motown legends, Ali-Ollie was inducted into the NAACP Image Hall of Fame and received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a member of The group. In September 1995, The Tempations released their classic album "For Lovers Only" which featured their renditions of classic love songs including "Some Enchated Evening," "Time After Time," "You Send Me" and "Life Is But A Dream" and while the album received excellent reviews, it was a bitter sweet moment for the group. While recording, the group's bass singer Melvin Franklin had died, leaving a void that has yet to be filled, and the lack of promotion and changes of Presidents at Motown forced Ali-Ollie to leave along with a diagnosis of throat cancer, something he would battle for the rest of his life. He was replaced by Terry Week. While the group would gain larger success with the release of the mini-series and it's double platnium album "Phoneix Rising," Ali-Ollie continued to be active in the world of entertainement. He made numerous guest appearances on many televison shows including the short-lived series "Good News" where he played a member of the choir and on The Jamie Foxx, where he played a patient in a mental hosptial and performed "Treat Her Like A Lady" on piano. In addition to starring in several musicals, he also pursued a solo career releasing his music independebtly as well as forming his own group Emperors of Soul with Richard Street a former member of The Temptations and Franklin's cousin for a number of years before joining Dennis Edwards' group The Temptations Revue, where the group won reviews for their performances of "Some Enchantment Evening" and his signature hit. Woodson had also temporarily rejoined Otis' line-up for their 2002 Japanese tour when member Barrington Bo Henderson wasn't able to perform with them due to visa problems.
In late 2008 Ali-Ollie was diagnosed with leukemia and was hospitlaized for many weeks before dying from the disease in Southern California after battling it for 18 months.
Many are sadden by his death including Wilson, who describe him as a cool and caring person. "Woodson was "always a gentleman and always polite and kind to everybody. If we ever asked him to do anything, he never said, 'well, it's going to cost you.' He'd always say, 'yeah, let's go,'" said Wilson
Survivors include his wife Juanita, several children, fans, collegues and Temptations Otis Williams, Richard Street, Ron Tyson and Dennis Edwards who he was blessed to perform with.
Ali-Ollie Woodson was a very talented man, who shared his gift of singing and writing with the world, and he left us with one of The Temptations' biggest hits and favorite songs "Treat Her Like A Lady" a song that will be played for many years and will hopefully let the new breed of aspiring singers know that you have to have showmanship, classy swagger and talent.
This tribute is deciated to the memory of Ali-Ollie Woodson.