The title of Mark Solomon's feature on the current state of the truck transport market, "Keep on truckin', no matter what" is a play on "Keep on truckin'" by ex- Temptations singer Eddie Kendricks. No one got the answer this month.
Born in Alabama in 1939 as Edward James Kendrick (minus the "s" at the end of his surname), Kendricks co-founded the famous Motown group and was known for his falsetto. His family moved to Birmingham, Ala., where he began performing in a church choir. In 1955, he and three friends formed a doo-wop group called the Cavaliers. The group moved to Cleveland and then to Detroit, and soon renamed themselves The Primes. (Their manager discovered an early version of the Supremes, whom he managed under the name "the Primettes.") After undergoing some personnel shifts and two name changes—to the Elgins and finally to the Temptations—the group signed with the Motown record label.
The Temptations at first were backup singers. Their first hit as a group was "The Way You Do The Things You Do," with Kendricks singing lead vocals. Throughout their career, the group alternated lead vocals, but Kendricks takes the lead spot on many of their hits, including "My Girl," "Get Ready," and "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)." On many of their later hits, including "Cloud Nine," "I Can't Get Next to You," and "Ball of Confusion," all five group members took turns signing lead. Kendricks also famously dueted with Diana Ross on "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," which reached number two on the charts. Kendricks arranged most of the vocals on the Temptations' songs and co-wrote some of them. And he also chose the group's costumes, including matching purple suits they performed in during their heyday—which some in the group objected to, but which were a big hit with fans. (And perhaps inspired Prince's wardrobe?)
Kendricks left the Temptations for a solo career in 1971. The group released a hit that year called "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)," aimed directly at Kendricks and fellow ex-Temptation David Ruffin. The single was a Top 10 R&B hit. By contrast, Kendricks' first album, aptly titled All By Myself, didn't produce a major single. (The album itself did reach number six on the U.S. R&B chart, however.) But his second effort, 1972's People ... Hold On, resulted in three R&B Top 40 hits and was a popular selection of nightclub DJs. In 1973, the dance-oriented single "Keep on Truckin'" was released, and it hit number one on both Billboard's Hot 100 chart and R&B chart. "Keep on Truckin'" includes this dig at his former group:
In old Temptations' rain, I'm duckin'
For your love through sleet or snow, I'm truckin'
As it happened, the Temptations' popularity was waning a bit by this time, so the swipe may have smarted a little. "Keep on Truckin'" was the only solo record by any member of the Temptations to hit the number-one spot in the U.S.
Though "Keep on Truckin'" turned out to be Kendricks' only solo song to hit that top position, he continued to score solo hits during the '70s, including "Boogie Down" (number two), "Shoeshine Boy," "Get the Cream Off the Top," "Happy" (not the Pharrell Williams song), and "He's a Friend." His own popularity took a dive in the '80s, though. He took part in a 1982 Temptations' reunion that produced a hit in "Standing at the Top," written and produced by Rick James. In 1985, he appeared along with David Ruffin on the Live at the Apollo album, produced by Hall & Oates. The two duos also performed at 1985's Live Aid concert and at the MTV Video Music Awards. In 1989, he and Ruffin released an album together; the same year, the Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Kendricks died of lung cancer in 1992. He was 52 years old. His music has been covered or sampled by many later artists, including D'Angelo, Alicia Keys, Common, and Erykah Badu. Rapper Kendrick Lamar has said that he was named after Kendricks.
June-issue responses due Aug. 2
Did you pick up on the song reference in our June issue? If so, email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight Pacific time on Thursday, Aug. 2. We hope you have not fallen into a burning ring of fire and are able to respond. (That's a hint.) For another hint, turn to the second page of the June table of contents. If you don't have a copy of the magazine handy, you can scroll through the headlines in our mobile version or online. If you guess correctly, you'll be entered into our drawing for a three-pack sampler of Joey Kramer's Rockin' & Roastin' Organic Coffee. (Please note: Previous contest winners may not enter for the next three months.)