The Temptations' Otis Williams keeps rolling

The longest performing member and only original member of the legendary Temptations returned home to Detroit on Sunday, July 23 to bring the magic of the music to fans at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater. Singer, songwriter, and producer, Otis Williams, who is best known for his signature bass riffs, continues to deliver the songs that make the world sing night after night, performing with the still going strong Temptations. During his visit to Detroit to perform with other iconic groups, like the Spinners, the Dramatics, The Four Tops and the Stylistics, the beloved baritone advised audience members, that the city dubbed the ‘Big Three’ for its automotive contributions, will have to add Motown to that number, in recognition of the music and the addition of new world-class Motown Museum to Detroit’s musical landscape.
Williams, aka “Big Daddy” talked with Michigan Chronicle staff prior to the performance at Freedom Hill and shared inside information on how he manages to stay on track and keep the memories alive.

On how he’s managed to stay relevant and keep up the pace after 54 years …

It’s just that we still love what we do and we were born and bred for this. By that I mean being at Motown, and the intensity of the artist development and having such wonderful and key people around us, like Cholly Atkins, Maurice King and Barry [Gordy]. A lot of people instilled in us to make it our vocation rather than our [occupation] and that’s what we continue to do, to just be true to what we were taught all of those years ago.

On the changes in members of the group …

First of all, we love performing the music. Secondly one thing that is constant in life is change. Once you understand that, you can continue to grow and still be subject to change. When you stop and think about what we do in terms of bringing happiness and enjoyment to people, it’s priceless. And these days people need another outlet to enjoy themselves.

Managing the schedule

When we break down our work day, all we have to do is work for about an hour or sometimes an hour and half. But there are people in life who are still working full time at jobs that they don’t like. I’m not caught up in that vacuum. When I walk out on stage and see people eager to be entertained and hear “My Girl” or “Wish It Would Rain” it energizes me and keeps me going.

The glory days …

There was a multiplicity of things that made those early days special. There were a lot of wonderful ingredients that came together and we recognized that we were becoming something that would be historic. There was that magic that the Temptations had, because of a lot of different elements that are hard to describe. All we wanted to do was sing, but I look back at that time and realize that timing can be everything … And I’m still enjoying the ride here in 2017.

Working with today’s Temptations …

One of the main factors is that you have to like the people that you work with. These guys that I’m working with now are wonderful guys. Like Barry Gordy said, ‘No one man is that 11-letter word, and that 11-word is Temptations.’ And I am happy to say that the guys in the lineup now always function very well together and continue to carry on the spirit of the Temptations.

What he’s proudest of in his career …

Sugar, there are a whole lot of defining moments for me. When I stop and think in my mind about what I have been able to achieve, like holding all existing records at the Apollo, and holding all existing records at the Copacabana, I have nearly 40 gold and platinum records in my home, I have citations from several presidents and five Grammy’s. So, I can’t narrow it down to one event or moment.

What’s next …

A play about the Temptation’s life story, Ain’t Too Proud, is about to make its debut on Sept. 15 in Berkley, [California]. Young people in this production are rehearsing and working to tell the story of the Temptations in a different light than the mini-series even though some of it was taken from the mini-series. Watching rehearsals I was literally moved to tears.

And the 1967 Riot …

I was there in Detroit when the riot happened. I was getting ready to go to the Chit Chat lounge to see the Song Brothers, but something said, I imagine it was God, ‘You need to go home Otis.’ And when I got home all hell broke loose. So I didn’t see Benny Benjamin and Earl Van Dyke at the Chit Chat that night.

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