The late Eddie Kendrick was a founding member of The Temptations and, despite being a tenor, sang with one of the most notable falsettos in R&B.
Edward James Kendrick was born on December 17, 1939 in Union Springs, Ala. His family moved to Birmingham’s Ensley neighborhood when he was young, which is where he met singer and future founding Temptations member Paul Williams. With fellow vocalist Kell Osborne, the group relocated to Cleveland and then Detroit, then at the time named The Primes. After finding some success in the city’s fast-moving scene and being the source of a spin-off group that featured Diana Ross and future The Supremes, the group signed with Berry Gordy’s Motown imprint and were renamed.
As The Temptations, the original lineup consisted of Kendrick, Williams, Otis Williams, Melvin “Blue” Franklin, and Elbridge “Al” Bryant. According to accounts, Bryant didn’t enjoy the rigors of practicing and performing and decided to work as a milkman instead. David Ruffin, an aspiring singer, impressed the group and was added to the so-called “Classic Five” lineup. While the group began finding their stride as a group, the tensions within began to flare up. Ruffin was fired from the group and replaced by Dennis Edwards in the late ’60s.
The issues with the group also extended to Williams, who battled with alcoholism and other issues and was forced to leave the group. Kendrick was also frustrated with the new direction of the group during this period and under the urging of Ruffin, Kendrick went solo in 1971. After some mild success, Kendrick broke on the charts in 1973 with his hits “Keep On Truckin’” and “Boogie Down” but by 1978 and with his voice waning due to chain smoking, his career was winding down.
In ’80’s, Kendrick reconnected with David Ruffin and the pair sang with Hall and Oates for a live album recorded at The Apollo. The two also recorded an album together and joined the rest of the group in being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Kendrick and Ruffin also made a pact to record music but in 1991, Ruffin passed from a drug overdose and Kendrick was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Eddie Kendrick passed from the disease in 1992. He was 52.