Dennis Edwards, a key member of seminal Motown Records vocal group the Temptations, died Friday, according to a CBS News report. Edwards was 74.
Born in 1932 in Fairfield, Alabama, Edwards began singing as a child and became involved in his church’s choir when his family moved to Detroit. The budding singer bounced around multiple groups and even served a stint in the armed forces before Motown Records signed him to a recording contract in the mid-’60s.
“I was a reserve, and I didn’t know it,” Edwards said in a 2010 interview with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He filled in with the Contours when one of their members fell ill — and the group opened for the Temptations. “That’s when I really got the itch,” Edwards explained. Singer David Ruffin left the Temptations in 1968 and Edwards says he tried to talk his fellow Motown signee out of it. But Ruffin’s exit was final, and Edwards seized the opportunity when Motown approached him about replacing the outgoing Temptation.
Though the Temptations had existed for eight years prior to Edwards’ joining, he led them to commercial success. With Edwards, the Temptations scored numerous hits in the late ’60s and early ’70s, including Hot 100 toppers “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” The latter cut took home two Grammy Awards in 1972.
Edwards left the Temptations in 1977 and would leave and rejoin the group multiple times following his initial run. He encountered moderate success as a solo artist in the ’80s and ’90s — but his true legacy rested with the Temptations. In 1989, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, in 2013, they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I’d like to thank God for giving me the opportunity to sing with the greatest group in the world,” Edwards said in his brief Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech. “I just thank God that I’m a part of this great unit, thank you.”
Edwards’ family confirmed that he died in Chicago, but shared no details about his cause of death. The musician would have celebrated his 75th birthday on Feb. 3.
This story is developing.