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Temptations leader cares for group’s legacy

We talked with Otis Williams.

As the sole founding member of The Temptations, Otis Williams has unwittingly found himself caretaker of the legendary Motown act’s legacy. The singer, who helped make history in the 1960s with hits such as “My Girl” and “I Can’t Get Next To You,” is up to the challenge.

“I’m glad to still be able to continue on with what I started back in ’61,” Williams said recently, discussing his role with The Temptations, which performs with The Four Tops at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday. “It’s a wonderful journey. Even with the ups and downs, it’s still a labor of love.”

Songs come and go, but not the Motown catalog, and certainly not the work of The Temptations, the Detroit R&B label’s premier male vocal group. Through radio, movies, television programs and commercials, the iconic songs have remained ingrained in popular culture.

“Yeah, it’s a constant,” Williams said. “I never would’ve imagined when we started back in the ’60s that we would have such a wonderful catalog of hits that would last as long as it has. I’m in just as much awe as our fan base is.”

The Temptations have scored four No. 1 singles (18 if you include the soul/R&B charts), 10 top 10 albums and five Grammy Awards. However, one hit, the group’s first No. 1 smash, “My Girl,” has remained its most enduring song.

“Universal, which handles all of Motown’s catalog, says out of all the acts over there, ‘My Girl’ keeps surfacing to the top,” Williams said. “It keeps coming up, even past the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Marvin Gaye might come up for a minute, but The Temptations’ ‘My Girl’ always comes through. That song is so universally loved. It’s one of those songs that’ll go on forever.”

When The Temptations perform at The Fraze, the group will share the stage with former Motown label mates and frequent touring partners The Four Tops.

“We’ve been working with the Tops off and on, more on and that off, since 1964 and here it is 2013,” Williams said. “We have that wonderful Motown spirit and history together. The songs the Tops had out, as well as ours, have been the backdrop to a lot of people’s lives. It makes for a wonderful union for two iconic groups to come along and do things together.

“Here we are together on stage, and even though both groups have lost members, the songs continue to live on,” Williams added. “Hopefully people will come out, reminisce and remember what they were doing, where they were and what was happening when they started hearing those classic Motown songs”

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