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Otis Williams of The Temptations Talks New Music, Touring the UK and Listening to Beyoncé

28 November 18 words: Will Ryan

Formed in 1961 and named by Billboard as the most successful r'n'b act of all time, The Temptations have produced a hit in nearly every decade since their inception with ubiquitous singles like My Girl and Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone. We grabbed Otis Williams for a word on the blower...

Otis Williams, the 76 year-old veteran Motown singer and only original member of The Temptations, is coming to Nottingham this November alongside the group for their One Last Time Tour, which they are co-headlining with their contemporaries, The Four Tops.

Otis was quick to assure us that, despite the tour’s title, this won’t be the final time the band grace the stage. “I hope we can come there as often as our fans would want us to come. I try to take care of myself so we can continue to do what we do,” he says. Speaking ahead of the UK leg of the tour, he showed great fondness for the British audience. “The English fans are great; they do their research and are very inquisitive, asking me lots of questions about the Temps and Motown. I’ve always said that coming to England is like coming to a second home.”

The Temptations first signed to Detroit's Motown records in 1960, which helped them define their signature soulful r'n'b sound. But as each decade went on, they adapted their style to match the era, spanning funk, disco and r'n'b. Notorious for constant lineup changes yet a surprising ability to retain the core members, the group have certainly been through a lot during their 66-year career.

David Ruffin, the captivating, energetic yet troublesome frontman was kicked out due to his unreliability, but was known to jump on stage uninvited to sing along. Otis was forced to make difficult decisions in order to retain the integrity of the group, and the band has unfortunately suffered through the passing of members to both illness and suicide. “Right now we like to stay centred and just take it one show at a time,” he says.

Despite the troubles, The Temptations have retained a knack for letting go of the nostalgia and allowing themselves to evolve, while still maintaining a dedicated fan base; their 2010 album Still Here reached #49 on the US r'n'b charts, and their latest release All The Time features covers of modern pop and three original compositions.  

With a long and successful career comes with plenty of unforgettable memories. “One of the highlights I really cherish was being invited to the oval office and singing Silent Night with President Obama the last year he was in power. I have five Grammys in my home, I have schools of gold and platinum. When you’ve been around for as long as we have, you gather a whole lot of wonderful memories.”

The more subtle nature of The Temptations perhaps harks back to a day more reserved and conservative, but it’s nice to know they still have a place in the modern music industry. “Nowadays they don’t leave anything to the imagination,” says Otis. “It’s all so graphic, I’m surprised the FCC allows it on the radio. However I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. Everyone’s trying to make their mark on show business. I stay up to date with what’s happening on the scene; I like Beyonce, John Legend, and I even listen to some Drake.

“I just think music is music,” he says. “People are changing forms but great music will always be great music.”

The Temptations play alongside The Four Tops on Thursday 29 November at Motorpoint Arena

Motorpoint Arena website

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