The Way He Did The Things He Did: Eddie Kendricks’ Vocal Mastery

In the golden era of the Temptations, Kendricks’ light, acrobatic voice was the perfect foil for the gritty tones of the equally brilliant David Ruffin.

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Eddie Kendricks - Photo: David Redfern/Redferns
Photo: David Redfern/Redferns

His name may never quite have been as widely-known as his voice, but Eddie Kendricks was a vocalist of unique and distinctive soulfulness. As a co-founder of the Temptations, he sang on many of the songs that earned them the soubriquet of the Emperors of Soul, and his supple falsetto went on to feature on several landmark hits of his own. Eddie was born in Union Springs, Alabama on December 17, 1939, and died tragically young, of cancer, at just 52.

The Way You Do The Things You Do

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In the golden era of the Temptations’ rise to preeminence at Motown, Kendricks’ light, acrobatic voice was the perfect foil for the gritty tones of the group’s other chief lead singer, the equally brilliant David Ruffin. Eddie had the distinction of singing lead on the Tempts’ first chart single, 1962’s “Dream Come True,” and the first R&B No.1 that came right after it, “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” As stylish in person as on record, he was behind many of the striking wardrobe choices that made the group even more glamorous.

Listen to uDiscover Music’s Eddie Kendricks best of playlist.

Before his departure in 1971, Kendricks had taken the lead on such indelible highlights of their songbook as the pacy “Get Ready” and their collaboration with the Supremes, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” He also had key roles in the multiple-vocal Norman Whitfield productions that gave them an exciting new sound in the late 60s, especially when he delivered the title line of “Ball Of Confusion.”

Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)

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Tensions within the group led to Kendricks’ departure, but he went out in glory, with the melodic, dreamy narrative of the 1971 US pop and R&B chart-topper “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me).” After a run of modest chart entries at the outset of his solo career, he delivered a superb one-two punch of No.1s in 1973 with “Keep On Truckin’” and “Boogie Down,” in a run of nine consecutive R&B top tenners that also included another bestseller, “Shoeshine Boy.”

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Later years delivered less success, and a departure from Motown followed in 1978, but he and Ruffin returned to the Temptations fold briefly for a 1982 tour and album, Reunion. Produced by later Tamla star Rick James, it included the exhilarating hit featuring Kendricks, Ruffin, and one of their successors, Dennis Edwards, “Standing On The Top.”

The 80s also brought Kendricks and Ruffin together with their great admirers Daryl Hall & John Oates, co-starring on 1985’s Live At The Apollo album. Eddie and David made an LP together for RCA in 1988, before being part of the Temptations’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year. Diagnosed with lung cancer, Kendricks fought the disease for well over a year, before his death in the autumn of 1992. His role in a shining era of soul music will never be forgotten.

“Unless a singer produces himself, he has to portray the producer,” he said in an interview with Disc in 1973. “Which means sometimes what you’re doing isn’t really you. But I feel if my voice remains distinctive, then that really doesn’t matter. The main thing is always to keep your identity.”

Listen to The Eddie Kendricks Collection, Vol. 1.



  1. Karl Butler

    January 25, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    My number one vocalist. I had the pleasure to know this wonderful man.In college as one of the people who brought entertainment in for the students at South Carolina State University Along with Earl Redford.We stayed in touch over the years.A great talent and a great human being.Iwas blessed to have been in his company.[RIP] Eddie K.

  2. by DELLAPHINE Belenda Rauch-Houekpon

    December 17, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Very very surprised to see this story first thing in the morning which is going to make my day beautiful and joyous! I have loved and admired Eddie all my life and he was and always will be my favorite Temptation. Suave, debonair, very very handsome and sexy, Eddie WAS the personification of “COOL”….and his voice IS the high benchmark for others to follow…imitated but never never duplicated … He was one of a kind. As a Washington DC native, l also remember his outstanding collaboration with The Young Senators….how his smoothness on such Eddie standards as “Can I”, “If You Let Me”, “Girl,You Need A Change of Mind” and of course his distinctiveness on all of the Temps classics like “You’re My Everything” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” made him a standout but always a dedicated “Temptation Forever”. I miss him to this day and pray for him ’cause he was just “gone too soon”. Rest in power and peace, my darling Eddie Kendricks! You are truly, truly missed, nobody can fill your shoes nor take your place. You stand alone “At the Top”!

    • Mrs.G

      December 17, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      Beautiful said

    • Sweet Peaches

      May 31, 2019 at 3:38 am

      Love Eddie Kendricks!

  3. T C

    December 17, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Eddies love.

    Great song.

  4. Mrs.G

    December 17, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    Wow love how i woke up to this always told myself i was going to find that man and marry him young but LOVE they music. Oh how i dance to many of their song today music is

  5. Doreen Tanner

    December 17, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    As a twelve year old girl I met Mr. Kendrick outside the Ed Sullivan theatre. He was so we’ll groomed and a gentleman. I looked at him and nodded my head, he nodded back lol I knew not to act too excited around him. He was so cool and calm. Gone but never forgotten. Beautiful voice.

  6. Shirley Montgomery

    December 17, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Sunday night I listened to you sing ( cry just a little ) rip love you…

  7. Asa L. Faust

    October 29, 2019 at 9:21 am

    One of a kind; easily recognizable voice.

  8. Strege, Bruce

    October 6, 2022 at 2:40 am

    To a lot of people his songs are just a song of the Motown 60’s and 70’s, to us that listened to Eddie’s songs, got us through some very bad times in Vietnam and after. We didn’t have PTSD back then, we were told to suck it up and move on. His songs and the Temptations were the glue that got us through. Some of us never made it, but those of us that did say thank you….

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