The Temptations' 10 best songs, ranked

9 October 2023, 13:44

The Temptations
The Temptations. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The Temptations are one of the most iconic and influential vocal groups in the history of soul music.

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With their smooth harmonies, intricate choreography, and stylish outfits, they captivated audiences around the world and produced a string of hit songs that defined the Motown sound.

Whether you are a longtime fan or a newcomer to their music, you will discover why the Temptations are still revered as the 'Emperors of Soul'.

  1. You're My Everything

    The Temptations - You're My Everything

    'You're My Everything' was released in 1967 as the third single from their album The Temptations with a Lot o' Soul.

    It was written by Norman Whitfield, Cornelius Grant, and Rodger Penzabene, who also wrote two other songs for the group: 'I Wish It Would Rain' and 'I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)'. The song was inspired by Penzabene's love for his wife, who had cheated on him but whom he still loved deeply.

    It featured lead vocals by Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin, who alternated verses and sang together on the chorus. The song also had a catchy and upbeat melody, driven by a guitar riff by Grant and a horn section by The Funk Brothers.

    'You're My Everything' was a hit for The Temptations, reaching number three on the Billboard R&B chart and number six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

  2. I'm Gonna Make You Love Me (with the Supremes)

    The Temptations "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" on the Ed Sullivan Show

    On 'I'm Gonna Make You Love Me', the Temptations teamed up with another Motown group, Diana Ross and the Supremes.

    The song was written by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, and Jerry Ross in 1966, and originally recorded by Dee Dee Warwick, the sister of Dionne Warwick.

    The song was released in November 1968 as the lead single from the album Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations, which featured collaborations between the two groups.

    It featured lead vocals by Diana Ross and Eddie Kendricks, with a spoken interlude by Diana Ross and Otis Williams.

    It was a huge success, reaching #2 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B chart in January 1969. It was also a hit in other countries, such as Canada, UK, Australia, and Ireland.

  3. Get Ready

    The Temptations - Get Ready (Lyric Video)

    'Get Ready' was written and produced by Smokey Robinson, who was also a singer and songwriter for another Motown group, The Miracles. He wrote the song as an answer to the latest dance craze, 'The Duck', which involved moving the arms and legs in a duck-like manner.

    The song features Eddie Kendricks as the lead singer, who sings in a high-pitched falsetto voice. He is joined by the other four members of the group, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, David Ruffin, and Paul Williams, who provide harmonies and background vocals.

  4. Ain't Too Proud to Beg

    Temptations "Ain't too proud to beg"

    'Ain't Too Proud to Beg' is a classic soul and R&B hit that expresses the singer's desperate plea for his lover to stay with him.

    It was released in 1966 as a single from the album Gettin' Ready, and was produced by Norman Whitfield and written by Whitfield and Edward Holland Jr. The song also marked a turning point in the Temptations' career, as Whitfield replaced Smokey Robinson as their main producer after the success of 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg'.

    The song is also the title of a Broadway musical based on the life and music of the Temptations.

  5. I Can't Get Next to You

    The Temptations "I Can't Get Next To You" on The Ed Sullivan Show

    The Temptations' song 'I Can't Get Next to You' is a classic example of the group's signature style of psychedelic soul, funk, and multi-lead vocals.

    The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, and produced by Whitfield for the Motown label. The song was released as a single in 1969, and became the second of the Temptations' four No. 1 hits on the US pop charts.

    It expresses the frustration of a man who has supernatural powers, but cannot use them to win the love of his desired woman. The song features all five members of the group taking turns singing lead vocals, showcasing their individual talents and harmonies.

  6. I Wish It Would Rain

    I Wish It Would Rain

    'I Wish It Would Rain' is a classic soul ballad that expresses the pain and sorrow of a man who has lost his love to another. The song was written by Motown staff writer Rodger Penzabene, who had just discovered that his wife was cheating on him.

    He poured his emotions into the lyrics, which reflect his wish for rain to hide his tears and his inability to face the world outside.

    The song was produced by Norman Whitfield, who added a dramatic orchestration and a thunderstorm sound effect to enhance the mood of the song. The lead vocals were performed by David Ruffin, who delivered a powerful and passionate performance that matched the intensity of the lyrics.

    Sadly, Penzabene died a week after the song's release, aged just 22, making it his last contribution to Motown and the Temptations.

  7. Just My Imagination

    The Temptations "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" on The Ed Sullivan Show

    'Just My Imagination' is a classic soul ballad that expresses the longing and fantasy of a man who is in love with a woman he sees every day, but who does not know him. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, and produced by Whitfield for the group's 1971 album, Sky's the Limit.

    It was the third and final Temptations song to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, and the last one to feature founding members Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, who both left the group shortly after.

    The song is notable for its lush orchestral arrangement, with strings and French horns, and its smooth vocal harmonies, led by Kendricks' falsetto.

    It has also been covered by many artists, such as the Rolling Stones on their 1978 album Some Girls.

  8. Ball of Confusion

    The Temptations - Ball Of Confusion (Live)

    'Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today) was released in 1970 and written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.

    The song is a reflection of the turbulent times that the world was facing in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the Cold War, the environmental crisis, the drug culture, and the urban decay.

    The lyrics list a series of problems and contradictions that create a sense of chaos and disorder, such as "the only person talking is the preacher", "the Beatles' new record's a gas", "marches alone can't bring integration", and "the sale of pills are at an all time high". The chorus repeats the phrase "ball of confusion", suggesting that the world is spinning out of control and that no one has a clear solution.

    The song also expresses the frustration and disillusionment of the black community in America, who felt that they were still oppressed and discriminated against despite the civil rights legislation. It also criticizes the political leaders who failed to address the issues of poverty, violence, and injustice, such as "the president he's got his war" and "the politicians say more taxes will solve everything".

  9. Papa Was a Rollin' Stone

    The Temptations - Papa Was A Rolling Stone

    The Temptations' song 'Papa Was a Rollin' Stone' is a classic soul song that tells the story of a father who abandoned his family and died a lonely death.

    The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who were inspired by the phrase 'rolling stone' that was used in their neighbourhood to describe a man who could not settle down.

    The song was originally recorded by the Undisputed Truth in 1972, but it became a hit when the Temptations released their version later that year. The Temptations' version was a 12-minute epic that featured an extended instrumental introduction, a psychedelic soul sound, and a dramatic vocal performance by lead singer Dennis Edwards.

    The song was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and won three Grammy Awards in 1973. The song also reflects the social and political turmoil of the early 1970s, as well as the personal struggles of the Temptations themselves, who had to deal with drug addiction, internal conflicts, and changing musical trends.

  10. My Girl

    The Temptations - My Girl

    The Temptations' signature song, 'My Girl', was released in 1964 and became their first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    The song was written and produced by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, who were both members of The Miracles. Robinson said that he wrote the song with all the women in the world in mind, and that it was not about a specific girl. He also said that he wanted to write a song that David Ruffin, the lead singer of The Temptations, could belt out with his powerful voice.

    The song is a classic example of the Motown sound, which combined elements of pop, gospel, R&B, and doo-wop. The song features a catchy melody, simple lyrics, and a prominent bass line played by James Jamerson, one of the legendary Funk Brothers who were the studio musicians for Motown.

    The song also showcases the harmonies and choreography of The Temptations, who added their own touches to the background vocals and the dance moves. The song has a positive and uplifting message, expressing the joy and gratitude of a man who has found his true love.

    'My Girl' has become an enduring anthem of romance and happiness. In 2017, the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant".