Williams, who was born in Texarkana, Texas was an original member of the Motown vocal group The Temptations in early 1960. Nicknamed "Big Daddy," Williams is the group's only surviving original member.
As a teenager, Williams put together a number of singing groups, among them Otis Williams and the Siberians, the El Domingoes, and the Distants.
At the urging of Berry Gordy at Motown, Williams and friends and band-mates Elbridge "Al" Bryant and Melvin Franklin quit The Distants. Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams from The Primes later joined Williams, Bryant, and Franklin to create the Elgins, who signed to Motown in March 1961 as The Temptations.
The Temptations eventually became the most successful act in black music over nearly five-decades. They have frequently changed their lineup and sound, but the one constant was the presence of Otis.
All seven of the Temptations' singles released between 1961 and 1963 failed to make it onto the U.S. Hot 100 pop singles charts, Still, during that time the group became known as one of the most talented and versatile groups in the country. In January 1964, Smokey Robinson and Miracles band mate Bobby Rogers co-wrote and produced "The Way You Do the Things You Do" with Eddie Kendricks on lead. The single became the Temptations' first Top 20 hit that April.
Robinson and fellow Miracles member Ronnie White wrote "My Girl", which the Temptations recorded in the fall of 1964 with Ruffin singing his first lead vocal for the group. Released as a single on December 21, 1964, the song became the Temptations' first number-one pop hit in March 1965, and is their signature song to this day.
After the success of "My Girl", Ruffin sang lead on the next three singles: "It's Growing", "Since I Lost My Baby" and "My Baby", all of which made it to the Top 20 in 1965. The "Classic Five" lineup of the Temptations, in1965 included Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, and David Ruffin.
The group followed with "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," "(I Know) I'm Losing You" and the early 1967 hit "Loneliness Made Me Realize) It's You That I Need." Other hit singles from this period include "All I Need," and "You're My Everything." From early 1964 to mid 1968, the Temptations became international stars, and achieved crossover success.
By 1968, after David Ruffin left, the group modified its sound to funkier and hard driving. Their single "Cloud Nine," won the Grammy Award, for Best R&B Vocal Group Performance of 1969. In 1972, after Eddie Kendrick's departure, they released a nearly seven minute-long single, "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone."
In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked The Temptations #67 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
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