Ali Ollie Woodson: Singer and writer with the Temptations
Monday 21 June 2010
One of Motown's premier acts, the Temptations are still going strong 50 years on from their inception, even if the background tenor Otis Williams has been the only constant member of the Detroit vocal group.
Between 1983 and 1987, and again between 1989 and 1996, he was ably seconded by the lead singer and songwriter Ali-Ollie Woodson.
Together, they penned the infectious "Treat Her Like A Lady", a No 2 single on the US R&B charts in 1984 and the Tempts' last non-oldie entry in the UK Top 20. It proved the last time the quintet sounded as contemporary and vibrant as they had done on "Psychedelic Shack" and "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone", the groundbreaking records they made with producer Norman Whitfield in the early 1970s.
Woodson co-produced "Treat Her Like A Lady", and sang lead on it as well as on many tracks on the albums Truly For You, Touch Me, To Be Continued, Special, Milestone and For Lovers Only, including his own compositions "Touch Me" and "Magic". In 1991, he also featured on "The Motown Song", the nostalgic Top 10 single credited to Rod Stewart (with the Temptations), and shared lead vocals with fellow Tempts Williams and Ron Tyson on "The Jones" the following year. In recent years, he toured as The Emperors of Soul with Dennis Edwards, the gruff-voiced singer he had twice replaced in the Temptations, and with the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.
Born Ollie Cregget in 1951, he later took up his father's surname, Woodson. He started singing in church choirs in his native Detroit, and then in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he lived for a while, before settling with his grandparents in Town Creek, Alabama. He won every talent show he entered and dreamt of becoming a recording artist. After a stint in the US army, he worked with Frederick Knight and played drums on "I've Been Lonely For So Long", the Alabama soul singer's 1972 hit for Stax. He subsequently spent five years with Bill Pinkney & The Original Drifters, a spin-off of the legendary vocal group, and made a series of soundalike recordings which prepared him for his next assignment, as a member of the Blue Notes, still led by Harold Melvin but without Teddy Pendergrass. He co-wrote and sang on "Disco Explosion", the Notes' 1978 single for Fantasy, but left and moved to New York the following year. He drove limousines and honed his writing skills, coming up with the basic ideas for several songs he later submitted to the Temptations.
Woodson had first auditioned for the Temptations in 1977 but lost out to Louis Price. Six years later, when Williams fired Edwards, he sought out Woodson in Atlanta, Georgia, where he had been leading his own group. He made his debut with the Tempts on "Stop The World Right Here (I Wanna Get Off)", the last cut recorded for their Back To Basics album. In 1984, Woodson applied his distinctive stamp with a performance combining a shiver-inducing falsetto and a yearning tenor on "Treat Her Like A Lady". Three years later, he and the Tempts guested on Smokey Robinson's One Heartbeat album and backed the actor Bruce Willis on a revival of The Drifters' "Under The Boardwalk" which made No 2 in the UK.
Edwards briefly returned to the fold but the more reliable Woodson soon replaced him again. He also worked with Millie Jackson, the 5th Dimension, Bobby Womack and Freda Payne and sang at the funerals of James Brown, Pinkney and Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops. In 2008, he was diagnosed with leukaemia. He recently contributed to A Soulful Tale of Two Cities, a two-CD set featuring Detroit artists' takes on classic Philadelphia music, with Philly acts returning the favour.
Ollie Cregget (Ali Ollie Woodson), singer, songwriter, musician, producer: born Detroit 12 September 1951; married (one daughter, one son); died Los Angeles 30 May 2010.
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