Star Interview: Richard Street of The Temptations

Richard Street, who was lead singer of The Temptations
Richard Street, who was lead singer of The Temptations

THERE are some stars a journalist can interview who have such impressive biographies it is difficult to know where to start in talking about their life. Richard Street is one of those people.

A Detroit-born talent of worldwide fame, Richard is a three-time Grammy award winner who spent more than 20 years as the lead singer of The Temptations, one of the best loved bands in history and one of Motown Records’ earliest signings.

With hits including My Girl, Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone and Ball of Confusion, The Temptations were known not only for the quality of their music but also the anti-war overtones of some of their songs.

Richard Street will be in concert at the Royal & Derngate on September 14 when he will perform some of the original Temptations hits.

But does he ever get tired of trying to add something fresh to such well known songs? “You only have one life to live,” he reflected. “It is fortunate if you get to do something in life that you love to do. When you go on you are so thankful you still have a chance to perform and you see these people who have paid money to see you, then you are fresh, happy and excited.”

A lot of his early inspiration came from simply listening to his mother sing.

“My mum just liked to sing around the house, she had 
her favourite songs she heard on the radio and it got me into it.

“Actually my first love was sports, I loved basketball, football and hockey. Singing came about my accident.

“I went to nightclubs in Detroit to sing. I would be there from 9pm until 2am Thursday to Sunday, I wasn’t supposed to be there but that is what I did.

“Melvin Franklin and I got a group together and we were imitating Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers. That was our first break into music. Melvin had the lowest voice I had heard on a nine-year-old, it was so low people couldn’t believe that voice came from him. It took me over a year to teach him to sing bass, we put his ear up to the record player and got him listening to Frankie Lymon and it took about a year for him to get it. Once he did, that was our big break, then we met Otis Williams and Motown was built.”

Being with The Temptations at their peak was “like a dream” according to Richard, who has recently published an autobiography entitled Ball of Confusion.

“You had to represent your race. That was something we could be proud of; not only black people but people all over the world loved what we did. Back then we did not have a whole lot of black people to look up to. Being part of The Temptations took all that was going on in the world and made a big impression on our songs. We did not know at the time we would make such a stir.”

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