Eddie Kendricks (born Edward James Kendrick; December 17, 1939 ? October 5, 1992) was an American tenor singer and songwriter. Noted for his distinctive falsetto singing style, Kendricks co-founded the Motown singing group The Temptations, and was one of their lead singers from 1960 until 1971. His was the lead voice on such famous songs as "The Way You Do The Things You Do", "Get Ready", and "Just My Imagination". As a solo artist, Kendricks recorded several hits of his own during the 1970s, including the number-one single "Keep On Truckin'".
Edward James Kendrick was born in Union Springs, Alabama on December 17, 1939, the son of Johnny and Lee Bell Kendrick. He had one sister, Patricia, and three brothers, Charles, Robert, and Clarence. His family moved to Birmingham, where he met and began singing with his best friend Paul Williams in their church choir in the late 1940s. In 1955, Kendricks, Williams, and friends Kel Osbourne and Willie Waller formed a doo-wop group called The Cavaliers, and began performing around Birmingham. The group decided to move for better opportunities in their musical careers, and in 1957 Kendricks, Williams, and Osbourne moved to Cleveland, Ohio, with Waller staying in Alabama. In Cleveland, they met manager Milton Jenkins, and soon moved with Jenkins to Detroit, Michigan, where the Cavaliers renamed themselves The Primes. Under Jenkins' management, the Primes did well for themselves in the Detroit area, eventually creating a female spin-off group called The Primettes (later The Supremes). In 1961, Osbourne moved to California, and the Primes disbanded. Kendricks and Paul Williams joined forces with members of The Distants to become The Elgins, who signed to Motown that same year as The Temptations.
With the Temptations
Main article: The Temptations
The Temptations began singing background for Mary Wells. After an initial dry period, The Temptations quickly became the most successful male vocal group of the 1960s. Although technically Kendricks was first tenor in the group's harmony, he predominately sang in a falsetto voice. Among the Temptations songs Kendricks sang lead on were "Dream Come True" (1962) the group's first charting single, "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (1964) the group's first US Top 20 hit, "I'll Be in Trouble" (1964), "The Girl's Alright With Me" (1964) a popular b-side that Kendricks co-wrote, "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" (1964), "Get Ready" (1966), "Please Return Your Love to Me" (1968), and "Just My Imagination" (1971). He was also allowed to sign a few leads in his natural voice such as "May I Have This Dance" (1962). He shares lead vocal duty on other records, including "You're My Everything" (1967) (shared with David Ruffin), and a long string of Norman Whitfield-produced psychedelic soul records where all five Temptations sang lead, such as the Grammy winner "Cloud Nine" (1968), "I Can't Get Next to You" (1969), and "Ball of Confusion" (1970). He also leads on "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (1968), a popular duet with Diana Ross and the Supremes, and on the Temptations' famous version of the Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1968).
Eddie Kendricks (2nd from left) with the Temptations in 1967.
In the Temptations, Kendricks was responsible for creating most of the group's vocal arrangements, and also served as wardrobe manager, including the now famous purple suits the group wore for one performance. He also co-wrote several Temptations songs apart from "The Girl's Alright With Me" including "Isn't She Pretty" (1961) and "Don't Send Me Away" (1967). His favorite food was cornbread, and as a result he was nicknamed "Cornbread" (or "Corn" for short) by his bandmates. According to Otis Williams, Kendricks romantically pursued Diana Ross, lead singer of the Supremes, and he was said to have been close friends with Martha Reeves of the Vandellas. In her second book, Supreme Faith, Supremes singer Mary Wilson writes that she and Kendricks were lovers "briefly", but remained close friends.
Kendricks remained in the group through the rest of the decade, but a number of issues began to push him away from it in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was uncomfortable with singing the psychedelic style that Whitfield was now crafting for the group as opposed to the romantic ballads they'd sung under the direction of Smokey Robinson, his friend Paul Williams was often too ill to perform with the group, and Kendricks often found himself at odds with bandmates Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin. As he grew away from the group, Kendricks began to rekindle his friendship with ex-Temptation David Ruffin, who convinced him to leave the group. In a 1991 interview with Urban Street Kendricks said he actually started to make the decision to leave the group as early as 1965 because of things that "weren't quite proper." He explained that they were working with people that "didn't have their best interests at heart." Kendricks, however, initially decided to stay in the group because he was worried he would not get the support he needed if he left the group. Kendricks also expressed the fact that his relationship with Berry Gordy was less than cordial. "Berry Gordy is a man I don't know, I only met him about three times," he said, but "I know he didn't particularly care for me." Kendricks states that he didn't agree with many decisions that were made, and he refused to "brown-nose" or be a "yes man". Ultimately, Kendricks didn't want to leave the group; instead, he wanted to stay in the group and record a solo album, but that wasn't allowed (Though labelmate Michael Jackson would be allowed the same request). Kendricks recorded one last hit single with the Temptations, 1971's "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)"; by the time the record reached #1 on the US pop charts in April 1971, Eddie Kendricks had quit The Temptations in May 1971 and signed a solo deal with Motown's Tamla imprint, but many of his problems with Motown would reoccur.
Solo career and later years
Eddie Kendricks' solo career began slowly; he endured two years of singles that missed the Top 40, while The Temptations continued with their string of Norman Whitfield-helmed hits (one of which, "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)", was written as a jab towards Kendricks and Ruffin). Despite enjoying only a modicum of commercial success and radio airplay, Kendricks's 1972 album People... Hold On recorded with his touring band, "The Young Senators" (Frank Hooker, Jimi Dougans, Wornell Jones, David LaCraft, LeRoy Fleming, Calvin Charity and James Johnson) out of Washington, DC, was a cornerstone of DJ playlists in downtown New York's nascent disco scene. The expansive, eight minute take on "Girl, You Need A Change Of Mind" from the album was a particular favorite at David Mancuso's Loft. As the dance craze seeped through into other cities, Kendricks scored a #1 pop hit in 1973 with the Frank Wilson-produced "Keep on Truckin'". Future hits included "Boogie Down" (US #2) (1974), "Son of Sagittarius" (US #28) (1974), "Shoeshine Boy" (US #18) (1975), and "He's a Friend" (US #36) (1976). Another notable song is "Intimate Friends" (1977), which is sampled for the Alicia Keys song "Unbreakable" (2005) and "A Penny for My Thoughts" by Common.
Exasperated by lack of creative and financial control, Kendricks left Motown, forced to sign away the rights to his royalties to do so, in 1978, moving first to Arista Records, and later to Atlantic Records. Kendricks was also supposedly at David Gest's house when Michael Jackson performed his new hit 'Don't Stop Till You Get Enough' for Gest and fellow house guests. By this time, his popularity had waned, and he was also gradually losing his voice as a result of chain smoking. He and David Ruffin briefly re-joined the Temptations for a 1982 reunion tour. Ruffin and Kendrick (Kendricks dropped the "s" from his stage name during the 1980s) reportedly met up one night when Ruffin went to watch Kendrick perform in a nightclub; Kendrick spotted Ruffin in the crowd, pointed him out, and invited him to come up on stage and perform with him. Afterward they talked about touring on their own and recorded an album as a duo for RCA in 1988.
Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin with Hall & Oates circa 1985.
Earlier, in 1985, they participated in the Hall & Oates live album Live at The Apollo recorded at a benefit at New York City's Apollo Theater; and sang with the duo at Live Aid in Philadelphia and the MTV Video Music Awards in New York. Hall and Oates have cited Kendrick and Ruffin specifically, and the Temptations in general, as a major influence.
In 1989, Kendrick, Ruffin, and their old Temptations bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There, Kendrick and Ruffin made plans with fellow former Temptation Dennis Edwards to tour and record as "Ruffin/Kendrick/Edwards, Former Leads of The Temptations." The Ruffin/Kendrick/ Edwards project was cut short in 1991, when Kendrick was diagnosed with lung cancer and David Ruffin died of a drug overdose.
In late 1991, Kendrick, by now living in his native Birmingham, Alabama, underwent surgery to have one of his lungs removed in hopes of preventing the spread of the cancer. He continued to tour through the summer of 1992, when he fell ill again and was hospitalized. Kendrick died on October 5, 1992 of lung cancer in Birmingham at the age of 52. Kendrick is survived by his three children Parris Kendrick, Aika Kendrick, and Paul Kendrick. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Kendricks was portrayed by Terron Brooks in the 1998 biographical television miniseries The Temptations.
as Eddie Kendricks
Tamla (Motown) releases
1971: All By Myself
1972: People ... Hold On
1973: Eddie Kendricks
1974: Boogie Down!
1974: For You
1975: The Hit Man
1975: He's A Friend
1976: Goin' Up In Smoke
1978: Vintage '78
1979: Something More
1981: Love Keys
Ms Dixie Records release:
1983: I've Got My Eyes on You
as Ruffin and Kendrick
1988: Ruffin & Kendrick
Tamla (Motown) releases
1971: "It's So Hard For Me To Say Good-Bye" (US #88)
1971: "Can I"
1972: "Eddie's Love" (US #77)
1972: "If You Let Me" (US #66)
1973: "Darling Come Back Home" (US #67)
1973: "Girl You Need A Change Of Mind (Part 1)" (US #87)
1973: "Keep On Truckin' (Part 1)" (US #1, UK #18)
1974: "Boogie Down" (US #2, UK #39)
1974: "One Tear" (US #71)
1974: "Son of Sagittarius" (US #28)
1974: "Tell Her Love Has Felt the Need" (US #50)
1975: "Get the Cream off the Top" (US #50)
1975: "Happy" (US #66)
1975: "Shoeshine Boy" (US #18)
1976: "Get It While It's Hot"
1976: "He's a Friend" (US #36)
1976: "It's Not What You Got"
1977: "Goin' Up In Smoke"
1977: "Born Again / Date With The Rain"
1977: "Intimate Friends"
1978: "Ain't No Smoke Without Fire"
1978: "The Best of Strangers Now"
1980: "I Just Want To Be the One In Your Life"
1981: "Oh I Need Your Loving"
1985: "A Night At The Apollo Live!" (UK #58) (Daryll Hall and John Oates featuring David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick)