Edward James Kendrick was an American singer-songwriter known for his distinctive falsetto singing style. He was more popular by his stage name, Eddie Kendricks. A native of Alabama, Kendricks started singing in his church choir in the 1940s. In 1955, he co-founded a doo-wop group named The Cavaliers, which later rebranded itself as The Primes. After the disbandment of The Primes, Kendricks and four others established the group The Elgins in 1960. They had to change the name to The Temptations soon after as there was already a group of the same name. Kendricks was with the group until 1971 before embarking on his solo career. He released 15 studio albums and several singles. During the 1980s, Eddie decided to stop using the letter “s” at the end of his surname. In 1989, Kendrick, along with the rest of The Temptations, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on December 17, 1939, in Union Springs, Alabama, Eddie Kendricks was one of the five children of Johnny and Lee Bell Kendrick. He had three brothers, Charles, Robert, and Clarence, as well as a sister named Patricia.
The family later relocated to the Ensley neighbourhood of Birmingham, where he became acquainted with Paul Williams, who would become Kendricks’ lifelong friend.
Kendricks and Williams began singing at the local church choir. In 1955, they set up a doo-wop group called The Cavaliers with Kell Osborne and Jerome Averette. Not long after they began performing in the area, they changed the name of the group to The Primes. In 1961, the members of the group decided to go their separate ways.
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In 1960, in Detroit, Michigan, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams got together with Otis Williams, Elbridge "Al" Bryant, and Melvin Franklin, previously of Otis Williams & the Distants, to form The Elgins.
They auditioned for Motown Records in March 1961, impressing the founder of the label, Berry Gordy, who decided to sign the group to the Motown imprint, Miracle. However, Gordy found out that there was another group that was using the name Elgins. The group subsequently renamed themselves as The Temptations.
In the early years, either Kendricks or Paul Williams served as the lead singer in most of their songs. Kendricks was the lead in The Temptations' first charted single, ‘(You're My) Dream Come True’. The group’s debut album, ‘Meet the Temptations’ was released in 1964.
Kendricks quit The Temptations in 1970. While he was in the group, The Temptations put out ‘The Temptations Sing Smokey’ (1965), ‘The Temptin' Temptations’ (1965), ‘Gettin' Ready’ (1966) ‘The Temptations with a Lot o' Soul’ (1967), ‘The Temptations in a Mellow Mood’ (1967), ‘Cloud Nine’ (1969), ‘Together’ (1969)’ ‘Puzzle People’ (1969) ‘Psychedelic Shack’ (1970), and ‘Sky's the Limit’ (1971).
In later years, Kendricks stated that one of the reasons for his departure from the group was that his relation with Gordy was not ideal. In 1982, he briefly became part of the group once more for a reunion tour. They even released an album, appropriately titled, ‘Reunion’.
In the initial years of his solo career, Eddie Kendricks endured his share of struggles while The Temptations thrived without him. Between 1971 and 1977, he put out nine studio albums through Motown: ‘All by Myself’ (1971), ‘People Hold On...’ (1972), a self-titled album (1973), ‘Boogie Down’ (1974), ‘For You’ (1974), ‘The Hit Man’ (1975), ‘He’s a Friend’ (1975), ‘Goin’ Up in Smoke’ (1976), and ‘Slick’ (1977).
He left Motown in 1977 and subsequently released ‘Vintage '78’ (1978) and ‘Something More’ (1979) through Arista Records, ‘Love Keys’ (1981) through Atlantic Records, ‘I've Got My Eyes on You’ (1983) through Ms. Dixie Records, and Live at the Apollo’ (1985) through RCA Records.
His collaboration with former fellow Temptation member, David Ruffin, resulted in the last studio album for both the artists, ‘Ruffin & Kendrick’, which was released through RCA in 1988.
While Kendricks found considerable success as a solo artist, by the late 1970s his popularity was rapidly decreasing. Furthermore, he was having issues hitting high notes due to chain smoking.
Family & Personal Life
Eddie Kendricks was married to a woman named Patricia until 1975, when they divorced. They had one son together. Eddie had three children altogether, sons Parris and Paul, and daughter, Aika.
According to some sources, he was in an on-again, off-again relationship with singer Diana Ross that had started when he was still affiliated with The Primes.
He passed away on October 5, 1992, in Birmingham, after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 52 years old at the time. He is interred at Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama.