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Temptations perform in Beaver Creek

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
ALL |

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” For Otis Williams, nailing down a favorite memory as a Temptations singer is tough.

After all, he’s been at this for nearly 50 years. Williams, the lone surviving original Temptation, has been clutching a mic since the group exploded onto Detroit’s motown scene in the 1960s.

He crooned as the group shucked its nickname, “The Hitless Temptations,” and skyrocketed to the top of the charts with “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” and “My Girl.” He stayed on as the “Tempts” churned out albums at breakneck speed ” 48 titles in 47 years.

No wonder Williams, 66, has trouble pinpointing his favorite moment; he appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, shattered records at the Copacabana in New York and lined his shelves with Grammys.

And he did all this in the face of biting racial prejudice. The five Temptations charmed the nation even as restaurants slammed doors in their faces and hotels turned them away simply because they were black.

A half century later, theaters can’t fling their doors open fast enough for the Temptations. The current lineup ” Williams, Terry Weeks, Bruce Williamson, Ron Tyson and Joe Herndon ” perform before a sold-out audience in Beaver Creek tonight.

Afterward, the Temptations will jetset to London to promote “Back to Front,” an album they released in October of last year and they’re heading to Phoenix to perform with the scantily-clad, chick-ensemble “Pussycat Dolls.”

“So we’re busier than a blind dog in a meat market,” Williams said.

Vail Daily: What has kept you on stage all these years?

Otis Williams: There’s no shortcut other than you’ve got to love it and I still enjoy what I do because it’s a wonderful feeling to walk out on stage and people givin’ you a standing ovation before you even pick up the mic and then once we start singing, you see (the audience is) really enjoying what you’re doing, so it’s the love of.

VD: How long do you plan to continue performing?

OW: Well, sugar, as long as God give me the health and the will to continue on goin’, I’m alright to have tours.

VD: How have you personally handled losing members of the group?

OW: Well sugar, that’s what life is all about. You live, and at the risk of sounding cryptic, we are born to die. You have to adjust and understand that, and I mean it’s just like losing a family member. When you lose a group member, it’s just a sad thing. There’s a grieving process that we go through but like Melvin (Franklin) said in ‘Ball of Confusion’ ” “and the band played on.” You continue on because they would want that.

VD: Any memorable moments from your travels?

OW: When you’ve been around as long as I have, it’s hard to isolate just one. We’ve had a lot of glorious moments in our history: Winning the first Grammy for motown, being on the Ed Sullivan show, breaking all existing records at the Copacabana, the Apollo theater … star on Hollywood, being inducted into the rock n’ roll hall of fame. We just got a proclamaton from the president of the United States the other day for black history, so we’ve got countless memories to draw from.

VD: You’re doing a private show with the Pussycat Dolls. How did that come about?

OW: That’s a private gig. You know, promoters call and say, ‘Do you want to do a show with the Pussycat dolls?’ It’s a private show in Phoenix. And, um, you know, yeah we’ll do a show with the Pussycat Dolls, fine as they are, you know?

VD: I don’t think too many people would pass that up.

OW: Not if he’s a sho’ enough thoroughbred male.

VD: Which is your favorite song and why?

OW: ‘My Girl’ because it’s such a universal song and I like to think at some point in time every guy would like to say that ‘this is my girl’ and every girl in some point in time would like to have a guy say that she is his girl, it’s such a universal appeal. It sounds just as fresh as what I hear on the radio today. I say, ‘Wow. That record’s almost 40 years old and it sounds like it was recorded just yesterday.’

VD: Being an African American Motown group in the 1960s, did you face any unique challenges?

OW: If you’re talking about, “Did we face any racial prejudice?” Yeah. Oh, yeah, we ran across that. You know, we just do whatever we have to do to continue on but we did face some racial prejudice: places we couldn’t go in to eat and hotels that wouldn’t take us, had to find another hotel. It was some rough times during the ’60s but the history has shown for black people we’ve been strong and have been able to overcome all kinds of adversities and that’s what we did.


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