Not only were “The Temptations” emblazoned on the Apollo’s marquee, the Motown group’s name is now embedded along the theater’s Walk of Fame, located between Patti LaBelle and Quincy Jones. The induction ceremony was Friday afternoon, June 7, and Otis Williams, the only surviving member of the original Temptations, was there to receive the honor.
Before Williams, a co-founder of the Temptations in Detroit nearly 60 years ago, addressed the crowd gathered outside the Apollo, Jonelle Procope, the theater’s president and CEO, reminded attendees, especially the young people, that the “Apollo theater would not be here without the Temptations, and young artists today stand on the shoulders of Otis and others,” she said.
Procope, like an emcee, then introduced a chorus line of elected officials, each one of them doing their best to sing a song from the Temptations’ treasury of hits. Rep. Adriano Espaillat recalled when he first saw the Temptations on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and how impressed he was with their dance routine, asking his colleagues to join him in a few steps. Rather than a dance, Assemblymember Inez Dickens broke out in “Poppa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” and State Senator Brian Benjamin chimed in with “Get Ready.”
There were no songs from the Apollo’s Executive Director Kamilah Forbes, only a summation of Otis Williams’ career and the spectacular odyssey of the Temptations, including 5 Grammys, 16 No. 1 albums, and the recent announcement that “My Girl” had been enshrined at the Library of Congress. She also gave a shoutout to playwright Dominique Morriseau whose Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud,” about the Temptations, has received 12 Tony nominations.
With an armful of proclamations and citations, Williams said it was by the grace of God that he was still alive and was able to be part of Motown legacy alongside Berry Gordy. “The Temptations—and how I wish they were here with me now—would not have been as successful as we have been without the loving support of fans, and the grace of God,” he said. He also cited the presence of his manager Shelly Berger and earlier praised Marilyn Duckworth for her ongoing assistance and loyalty.
On Monday, June 10, Williams will be back on the Apollo stage where he first appeared with his group in 1963, and folks will get a round of the same songs evoked by the politicians—and they will certainly be more melodic.