Sunday, February 4, 2018


Dennis Edwards passed away a few days ago. He was the lead singer of the Temptations from 1968 onward (if the Temptations can be said to have had a lead singer). Edwards joined the group right about when Norman Whitfield started producing them moving them into psychedelic soul territory. It was a marked difference from their earlier years. As brilliant as Whitfield's productions were, the singers complained that their voices were getting lost in the mix, which was true to a degree. It wasn't "My Girl" and "Ain't to Proud to Beg" days anymore. But they weren't necessarily being drowned out, they just weren't as prominent. The instrumentation was big and drawn out, more so than their earlier work, and to Whitfield's credit, it made for a much bigger package. To wit, the LP version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" was a whopping twelve minutes long, with an intro that lasted over three minutes before the vocals came in. By the time Edwards laid down the opening lines, he had done over ten takes and was pissed.

Dennis Edwards

"Papa Was a Rolling Stone" is an interesting case study for how Whitfield worked. On more than one occasion, he would produce a song for one group and if it didn't hit the charts, he'd record the song in an entirely different version with another group. He produced the Temptations' version of "War" and when that didn't stick, he did it again with Edwin Starr and that version was a huge hit. Another Temptations song that failed to hit big was "Smiling Faces Sometimes", which Whitfield fine tuned into a hit for the Undisputed Truth. Lest you think that the Temptations got the short end of every stick, the original version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" was recorded by, you guessed it, the Undisputed Truth, which went nowhere. Whitfield brought it to the Temps and you know what happened there.

Here's a mixed bag. First up is a pre-Temptations 45 by Edwards, followed by a few of the Whitfield produced Temptations songs with Edwards sharing lead vocals, including three different versions of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone", the "short" version (seven minutes), the LP version, the 45 B-side instrumental version (take that Jamaica!). Finally, the original version by the Undisputed Truth.

Dennis Edwards - I Didn't Have Too But I Did (streaming) at YouTube
The Temptations - Can't Get Next to You mp3
at (?)
The Temptations - Cloud Nine mp3
at (?)
The Temptations - Ball of Confusion mp3 at Snuthing Anything
The Temptations - Psychedelic Shack mp3
at AM Then FM With spoken intro
The Temptations - Papa Was a Rolling Stone (7 minute version) mp3
at Data Vibe (?)
The Temptations - Papa Was a Rolling Stone (12 minute version)
(streaming) YouTube
The Temptations - Papa Was a Rolling Stone (instrumental version)
(streaming) at YouTube
The Undisputed Truth - Papa Was a Rolling Stone (original)
(streaming) at YouTube

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