BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Eddie Kendricks, whose clear falsetto punctuated such hits for the Temptations as “Get Ready” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” has died of lung cancer at 52.
Kendricks, who died Monday, founded the group in Detroit in 1961 with Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams and Elbridge Bryant. David Ruffin replaced Bryant in ’64, and the group signed with the Motown label.
The Temptations had their first No. 1 hit with “My Girl” in 1965, followed by “It’s Growing” and “Since I Lost My Baby” that same year.
“Eddie just had that great, great tenor voice that just was so captivating,” Esther Edwards, the Temptations’ first manager and the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., said recently. “He had such admirers, men and women. But the ladies really loved Eddie and his style.”
The Temptations went on to become Motown’s most successful male group, with more than a dozen hits.
Among Motown’s groups, the Temptations ceded chart supremacy only to the Supremes, who started as the Primettes, a sister act to the Temptations’ initial incarnation as the Primes.
“While the Four Tops covered the frenetic side of the Motown sound and the Miracles monopolized its romantic side, the Temptations quite simply stood as the finest vocal group in ’60s soul,” Joe McEwen and Jim Miller wrote in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll. “They could out-dress, out-dance and out-sing any competition in sight.”
Kendricks began a solo career in 1971 but rejoined the group in 1982 for a reunion tour. He was reunited with the band again in 1989 as it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Kendricks and Ruffin began working together after their 1985 album, “Live at the Apollo,” with the pop duo Hall and Oates.
Paul Williams killed himself in 1973, two years after he was asked to leave the group because of alcoholism and related health problems.
Ruffin died last year of a drug overdose, shortly after completing a European tour with Kendricks and another former Temptation, Dennis Edwards.
Kendricks, a Birmingham native, underwent surgery last year to have a lung removed. He said the disease was caused by 30 years of smoking, and he urged children not to smoke.
“A lot of people were saying it was HIV … or drugs,” Kendricks said. “It was just from smoking.”
Kendricks is survived by his parents and a sister.