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Two Silent Microphones from the Fraternity of Soul! PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 23 March 2013 18:34

Two Silent Microphones from the Fraternity of Soul!

(Remembering Richard Street and Damon Harris of the Temptations)

Most people who follow Soul music from the 1960’s know about the legacy of the Temptations. The group’s lineage dates back to 1960 in Detroit, Michigan with teenager Otis Williams who formed a group in the 1950’s called the Distants. The group had gone through a variety of name changes and its lead singer was Richard Street. After a breakup of the group, the remnants merged with the remnants of a rival group called the Primes. The new members were Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams joining Otis Williams and bass vocalist Melvin Franklin now calling themselves the Elgins. The group was signed to Motown who changed its name to the Temptations. Lead vocals in the beginning were by Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. Because of a lack of hits in the early years the company brought in a new lead singer named David Ruffin. In 1968 Ruffin was replaced by Dennis Edwards as the new lead singer. In 1970 Richard Street the former lead singer of a Motown act called the Monitors was hired to stand in for Paul Williams from time to time. Williams was often ill and was officially replaced in 1971. Kendricks left the group in 1971, because of a business disagreement and he was replaced with a 21 year old tenor vocalist from Baltimore named Damon Harris. Harris led a group called the Young Tempts that sang Temptations songs. Their name was soon changed by the Isley Brothers to the Young Vandals, who signed them to their label T-Neck. The new lineup for the Temptations in 1971 was Damon Harris, Richard Street, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Dennis Edwards. The group would now have a new look and a new sound.

The Temptations entered into a new era with this lineup scoring a #1 hit on the US Top 10 chart in 1972 called "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone". That was followed by "Masterpiece" in 1973 that reached #1 on the R&B No. 1 chart. They kept the #1 position on that chart the same year with "Let Your Hair Down".  In 1974 the release "Happy People" and in 1975 "Shakey Ground" both reached #1 on the R&B No. 1 chart. 

Richard Street who contributed to many of the Temptations hits during his tenure with the group left in 1993 because of business disagreements. Damon Harris left the group in 1975 and got back together with the former members of the Young Vandals renaming the group Impact. The group would release their first album on Atco in 1976 backed up by the MFSB orchestra. A second album was released on Fantasy in 1977 and in 1978 Harris released his only solo album called “Silk”. In 1997 Damon Harris was diagnosed with prostate cancer and founded the Damon Harris Cancer Foundation in 2001. He died of prostate cancer on February 18, 2013 at the age of 62. Nine days later Richard Street died from pulmonary embolism on February 27, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. By coincidence Bobby Rogers a founding member of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and a Motown alumnus passed away on March 3, 2013.

Some of the Temptations classics featuring a prominent role for Richard Street were "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)", "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" "Masterpiece”, "Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)" and "Heavenly”. Damon Harris contributed heavily to "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)"  "Take a Look Around", "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone”, "Masterpiece", "Plastic Man" and "Love Woke Me Up This Morning". The two of them would sing together on most of these recordings.

The Temptations are the one and only Fraternity of Soul. Damon Harris and Richard Street have joined the long list of martyrs from the Temptations membership. Their microphones have been silenced, but their legacy lives on.

Damon Harris was a guest of Howard Burchette on The Funk Show in August of 2007. He shared his history with the Temptations, the group Impact and his work in prostate cancer awareness.  

Howard Burchette

Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 12:38