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The Temptations Essay, Research Paper
The sixties were the age of youth, as 70 million children from the post-war baby boom became teenagers and young adults. The movement away from the conservative fifties continued and eventually resulted in revolutionary ways of thinking and real change in the cultural fabric of American life. No longer content to be images of the generation ahead of them, young people wanted change. The changes affected education, values, lifestyles, laws, and entertainment. Many of the revolutionary ideas, which began in the sixties, are continuing to evolve today.
During the sixties, college campuses became centers of debate and scenes of protest more than ever before. Great numbers of young adults (Baby Boomers) were reaching military draft age and not yet voting age (minimum voting age did not become 18 until 1971), caused a struggle, which played out on many campuses as the country became more involved in the Vietnam War.
In 1966, James S. Coleman commissioned by the government, published Equality of Educational Opportunity, a landmark study that led the way to forced integration and bussing in the 1970’s.
The Civil Rights movement made great changes in society in the 1960’s. The movement began peacefully, with Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael leading sit-ins and peaceful protests, joined by Whites and Jews. Malcolm X preached black superiority, and by the end of the decade the Black Panthers were advocating black separatism, violence and anti-semitism. The term “blacks” became socially acceptable, replacing “negroes.” The number of Hispanic Americans tripled during the decade and became recognized as an oppressed minority. Cesar Chavez organized Hispanics in the United Farm Workers Association. American Indians, facing unemployment rates of 50% and a life expectancy only two-thirds that of whites began to assert themselves in the courts and in violent protests. The Presidential Commission of the Status of Women (1963) presented disturbing facts about women’s place in our society. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinham (National Organization of Women) questioning unequal treatment of women, giving birth to Women’s Lib, and discovered the “glass ceiling.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended to include gender. The birth control pill became widely available and abortion for cause was legalized in Colorado in 1967. In 1967, both abortion and artificial insemination became legal in some states.
While all this change is taking place, a lot of it through music.
In 1960, Elvis returned to the music scene from the US Army, joining the other white male vocalists at the top of the charts; Bobby Darin, Neil Sedaka, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Anka, Del Shannon and Frankie Avalon. America, however, was ready for a change. The Tamla Motown Record Company came on the scene, specializing in black rhythm and blues, aided in the emergence of female groups such as Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes, and Aretha Franklin, as well as some black men, including Smoky Robinson, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and the Temptations. Bob Dylan helped bring about a folk music revival, along with Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary. The Beach Boys began recording music that appealed to high schoolers. The Beatles, from England, burst into popularity with innovative rock music that appealed to all ages.
There was a major change in popular music in the mid-1960’s, caused in part by the drug scene. Acid Rock, highly amplified and improvisionational, and the more mellow psychedelic rock gained prominence. When the Beatles turned to acid rock, their audience narrowed to the young. Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead grew out of the counterculture in 1967. The musical phenomena of the decade was Woodstock, a three day music festival that drew 400,000 hippies and featured peace, love, and happiness…and LSD.
The modular synthesizer, developed in 1960 by Robert Moog and Donald Buchla, marked a major change in serious music. Innovative composers were already experimenting with electro acoustic music. Now they were able to go further with John Cage’s 0′0 (Zero Silence) to be performed by anyone in anyway; Morton Subotnik’s Silver Apples of the Moon; the Sonic Arts Union’s Wolfman. In 1967, Alvin Lucier, one of the co-founders of the Sonic Arts Union, created “Music for a Solo Performance,” in which electrodes were attached to the performer’s scalp. His alpha waves, controlled by his concentration, resonated from loudspeakers, accompanied by occasional percussion. Computers were used in music composition and sound synthesis, notably Max Mathews’ Music 4 and Music 5. By the end of the decade, popular music was also using synthesizers and other electronic devices.
The founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy did what many people of his time believed could never be done: he brought Black music into millions of White Americans’ homes, helping both Black artists and their culture gain acceptance, and opening the door for a multitude of successful Black record executives and producers. Though the music of Motown was not as raw or edgy as other R&B labels, such as Chess and Stax, the songs that were written, produced, and released from “Hitsville USA” comprise some of the most enduring, sophisticated and popular music of our time. Influential artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Smokey Robinson were all discovered and their talents fostered by Berry Gordy. Motown groups like the Four Tops, the Supremes and the Temptations are regarded as some of the best vocal groups ever to record. Even now, years after Gordy sold the company; the reputation of excellence he forged at Motown continues to stay with the famous label.
Setting up a publishing company, Gordy met a young singer named William “Smokey” Robinson, who fronted a group called the Miracles. Gordy became their manager and together they co-wrote the hit “Got a Job.” Two more hits and a distribution deal with United Artists followed, and a long creative partnership and friendship began between the two men. Bolstered by his recent success and aided by his family and friends, Gordy bought a house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, named it “Hitsville USA,” and started his own label, Tamla. The house doubled as a recording studio, and with talented young Detroit musicians such as Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong and Eddie Holland hanging around, it wasn’t long before Tamla was turning out hits. In 1960, the first song wholly conceived and produced at Hitsville, the Gordy composition “Money (That’s What I Want),” became a hit. Not long afterwards, the Miracles hit with “Way Over There” and “Shop Around,” Motown and Berry Gordy was national.
With the success of the Miracles, endless numbers of young, talented artists from the area began to show up at Hitsville. Soon Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder were all recording for Tamla and its parent label Motown. No fool to the ways of business, Gordy set up an environment of stiff competition at the label (sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly) where artists and producers were constantly trying to outdo one another and were, in the process, outdoing their own last releases. The strategy worked, and the company had hit after hit during the early ’60s with songs, like “My Guy,” that broke the color barrier, reaching not just the Black radio stations, but going pop and succeeding among White audiences as well.
Over the next several years, Gordy drew on his automobile-production roots to create an assembly line of hits and hit makers at Motown. The label’s new motto was “the sound of young America,” and writers like Holland/Dozier/Holland, Harvey Fuqua and Norman Whitfield churned out million-seller after million-seller for the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and the Temptations. Gordy, realizing that great presentation is key, also hired Maxine Powell to run the Motown Finishing School, a glorified charm school that made Motown artists look, talk and act like the stars they were becoming.
Throughout the ’60s Motown was riding high, and Gordy emerged as one of the young Black elite in show business. Yet the family atmosphere for which Motown was known was beginning to crack through the years of forced competition and favoritism. It was no secret that Gordy favored Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross over many of the other artists, and in 1968, the production team of Holland/Dozier/Holland left Motown, filing a $20 million lawsuit against Gordy. In 1970, Diana Ross and the Supremes, a virtual symbol of Motown’s success, broke up, ending an era.
Not long after, Gordy pulled up stakes in Detroit and relocated the multi-million dollar operation to L.A. There he concentrated on Ross’ acting career, producing the Ross vehicle Lady Sings the Blues. Though the company had recently signed the Jackson 5, and Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were entering the most successful eras of their career, in L.A. Gordy’s stranglehold on the magic of Motown lessened. Ross’ solo career was not as triumphant as he had hoped, and Gordy had lost much of the tight-knit family atmosphere that originally made Motown so successful. By the mid-’80s, Motown was losing millions, and in 1988 Gordy did what he never thought he could: he sold Motown to MCA for $61 million.
The sale of Motown, though sad for many, was concrete proof of Gordy’s success. Taking an $800 loan from his family, he turned Motown into the most successful Black-owned label in history. In the process, Gordy also brought the world countless memorable songs not only through his vision for spotting talent in others, but also his own talent as a songwriter and producer.
Originally called the Elgins, the Temptations were formed in 1961 from the coupling of two vocal groups based in Detroit–the Primes, originally from Alabama, and the Distants. That same year they signed with Motown. After a slow start–with the addition of Ruffin and largely under the direction of songwriter-producer Smokey Robinson–the Temptations turned out a string of romantic hits, beginning with “The Way You Do the Things You Do” (1964) and including “My Girl” (1964), “Get Ready” (1966), and “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” (1966). Bass Franklin, baritone Otis Williams, and occasional lead Paul Williams provided complex harmonies, and the two regular lead singers, Ruffin and Kendricks, strikingly complemented each other. Ruffin had a remarkable sandpaper baritone and Kendricks a soaring tenor. Paragons of sleek fashion and practitioners of athletic choreography (provided by Paul Williams and Motown’s house choreographer, Cholly Atkins), the “Tempts” epitomized sophisticated cool.
In the late 1960s they shifted to a more funk-oriented sound and to more socially conscious material when Norman Whitfield became the group’s producer and principal songwriter (along with partner Barrett Strong). Influenced by psychedelic rock and with Edwards replacing Ruffin (who had embarked on a solo career), the Temptations produced hits such as “Cloud Nine” (1968), “Runaway Child, Running Wild” (1969), “Psychedelic Shack” (1970), “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” (1970), and the Grammy Award-winning “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1972). In 1968-69 they were paired with Diana Ross and the Supremes for two television specials and recordings that included “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” (1968) and “I’ll Try Something New” (1969). In 1971 Kendricks left to pursue a solo career, notable for “Keep On Truckin’” (1973). From the mid-1970s the Temptations changed personnel frequently and produced occasional hits, but they never regained the form that earned them induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Thanks to their fine-tuned choreography — and even finer harmonies — the Temptations became the definitive male vocal group of the 1960s; one of Motown’s most elastic acts, they tackled both lush pop and politically-charged funk with equal flair, and weathered a steady stream of changes in personnel and consumer tastes with rare dignity and grace.
In the years that followed, the Temptations continued touring and recording, although by the 1990s they were essentially an oldies act; only Otis Williams, who published his autobiography in 1988, remained from the original line-up. The intervening years were marked by tragedy: after touring in the late ’80s with Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards as a member of the “Tribute to the Temptations” package tour, David Ruffin died on June 1, 1991 after overdosing on cocaine; he was 50 years old. On October 5, 1992, Kendricks died at the age of 52 of lung cancer, and on February 23, 1995, 52-year-old Melvin Franklin passed away after suffering a brain seizure.
In every band there is a lead singer. However, the lead singer is not the only major factor of a group. The band is made from many dividends, from the guitarist, to the drummer. This is what constitutes a band. Organization, communication, trust and respect are ingredients for a successful business partnership. If you lose even one of these multiples, the obtainment to success is in trouble.
By the 1970’s, the term “rock & roll” had become nearly meaningless. This decade saw the breakup of the Beatles and the death of Elvis Presley, robbing rock of two major influences. Pop music splintered into a multitude of styles: soft-rock, hard rock, country rock, folk rock, punk rock, shock rock – and the dance craze of the decade, disco! But whatever sub-genre(s) you preferred, rock music was big business.
Among the top names in popular music were Aerosmith, the Bee Gees, David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Alice Cooper, Eagles, Electric Light Orchestra, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Bob Segar, Bruce Springstein, Rod Stewart, Three Dog Night, and The Who. “Easy listening” regained popularity with groups such as the Carpenters, and Bob Marley gained a huge core of fans in the U.S. performing Jamaican reggae music.
In the 1980 s cable was born and MTV, originally intended to be promos for albums, had an enormous impact on music and young people. The digital compact disc (cd) revolutionized the music industry. Dances learned on MTV included Slam Dancing, Lombada, and Break Dancing. Harlem’s gay Black and Latino males imitated the beautiful jet set with their (then underground) Vogueing, a ‘pose’ dance popularized by Madonna incorporating the struts and stances of high fashion models.
Pop, rock, new wave, punk, country, and especially rap or hip-hop became popular in the 80s. Rap was new in the late 80s and 90s. It had started in prison 20 years earlier by jailed black inmates who, in the absence of instruments, turned poetic meter into musical rhythm. The early rap heard on ghetto streets was abrasive and laced with hostility toward society. Early important groups are Milli Vanilli, M. C. Hammer (great site, but it takes time), Vanilla Ice, and L.L. Cool J. There are great links on the Internet for music of the 80s listed below.
The 1990s was truly the electronic age. The World Wide Web was born in 1992, changing the way we communicate (email), spend our money (online gambling, stores), and do business (e-commerce). By 1994, 3 million people were online. By 1998, 100 million people were. It is estimated that by 2001, some 1 billion people will be connected. Internet lingo like plug-ins, BTW (by the way), GOK (God only knows), IMHO (in my humble opinion), FAQS, SPAM, FTP, ISP, and phrases like “See you online” or “The server’s down or “Bill Gates” became part of our everyday vocabulary. And – everyone has a cell phone.
Radio stations tended to find a niche and stick to it rather than playing a mix. With the advent of MP3 and writable CD’s people could copy music to a CD and have a professional quality disk. Copyright problems abounded. In 1993, Gordon Shaw published a study on the Mozart Effect, a correlation between classical music and mathematical aptitude discovering that college students and rats improve test scores by as much as 30% after listening to the music.
The sounds of the nineties include Alternative Country (Whiskeytown), Austin Music (Willie Nelson), Classic Rock (Rolling Stones), Country (Garth Brooks), Grunge (Nirvana), Metal (Metallica), Pop (Mariah Carey), Salsa (Selena), Techno-Dance (Nine Inch Nails), and Classical (Bach). All have several ranges within there is music for everyone of any kind.
It is impossible to arrive at a complete and objective description of an avant-garde movement while it is in progress; only a period of time can provide the necessary perspective. It can be acknowledged, however, that music has never before passed through a more rebellious phase than in the 20th century. The tremendous number and mixture of stylistic distinctions has banned a quality description for the first half of the century, but one must be accommodating, for musicians of the future will need the expressions modern and contemporary for their own times.
Music can only be stated as having a profound effect on everything that we do from
homework to society changes. All in all one person said it best
“We must build a new world, a far better world —
one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected.”
– President Harry S. Truman, 1945
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