Dennis Edwards, a former frontman of The Temptations whose gravelly and commanding vocals powered a string of chart-topping R&B hits, has died. He was 74.
“He is now at peace, and our love and prayers go out to his family,” Otis Williams, the last original surviving member of the Motown group, said in a statement on Facebook.
“At this moment and always, we acknowledge his extraordinary contribution to The Temptations legacy, which lives on in the music,” Williams added.
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The baritone singer died at a hospital in Chicago sometime Thursday night or Friday morning of complications from an unspecified illness, his manager, Toby Ludwig, told Reuters.
Edwards, who replaced the silky-voiced David Ruffin as lead singer of The Temptations in 1968, sang lead on hits like “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and “I Can’t Get Next to You.”
He parted ways with The Temptations in 1977, around the time the group left the legendary Motown label to sign with Atlantic Records. He came back and left again several times in the 1980s, as disco and hip-hop overtook easy-listening soul on the pop charts.
Edwards, who lived outside St. Louis and would have turned 75 on Saturday, was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 1989, as a member of The Temptations.
He also tried his hand at a solo career, releasing three albums and scoring hits like “Don’t Look Any Further” and “Coolin’ Out.”
R&B fans paid tribute on social media, and the civil rights activist Jesse Jackson Sr. tweeted that Edwards “inspired millions around the world.”
“He is above #CloudNine, going higher,” Jackson tweeted, dropping a reference to The Temptations’ 1968 hit track — the first of their singles to include Edwards in the lineup.