Richard Street: Long-serving singer with the Temptations

By the time he officially joined the Temptations in 1971, the versatile vocalist Richard Street had been associated with the Motown group and Berry Gordy Jr's label for over a decade.

The first member of the group to be born in Detroit, he had sung with Otis Williams & the Distants, a late-1950s quintet featuring future Temptations founders Melvin Franklin – his cousin – and Otis Williams, the Temps leader and mainstay to this day. He missed out on their merger with Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams – no relation – of the Primes in 1961, the arrival of David Ruffin to complete the all-conquering Temps classic line-up of 1964-1968, and watched Dennis Edwards replace Ruffin as lead tenor and help the group continue their run of worldwide hits.

Meanwhile, Street was busy working in the quality-control department at Hitsville USA, Motown's studio base, mentoring the Primettes and fronting the fondly remembered Monitors. In 1969, he began travelling with the Temptations, mostly to cover for Paul Williams, who was battling alcoholism and sickle-cell anaemia. "Before actually going on stage with the guys, I was singing in the wings for three months," Street recalled of the subterfuge involving a dancing and lip-synching Paul Williams.

Street was eventually introduced as Williams' replacement alongside Damon Harris (obituary, 18 February), who took over from Kendricks, and proved an ideal fit with his consummate showmanship and flair for choreography and harmony singing. He lasted until 1992, and encompassed 22 studio albums, including Solid Rock, All Directions and Masterpiece, the hat-trick of landmark releases produced by Norman Whitfield during the group's "psychedelic soul" purple patch. He was also on the Grammy-winning US No 1 single "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone".

He became part of the Temps spine through changing line-ups. "As long as we have a tenor, three leads and Melvin's big bass voice, that's the signature sound people identify with the real Temptations," said Street, who also participated in the septet line-up – featuring Kendricks and Ruffin – who made the Reunion album and the slamming "Standing on the Top" single with Rick James in 1982. He was still there to welcome Ron Tyson, Leonard's replacement, the following year, and Ali-Ollie Woodson, Edwards' excellent sub and the lead singer and co-writer of the group's last substantial hit, the irresistible "Treat Her Like a Lady", in 1984. The year before his departure, he guested with the Temps on the Rod Stewart homage "The Motown Song".

Born in 1942, Street, along with his brother, was raised by their mother after their father left the family. A generous, music-loving woman, she took in Franklin for a while, helping cement a brotherly relationship between the cousins, who started imitating their favourite doo-wop group, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, in 1956, before teaming up with Otis Williams.

Street soon ditched sports to concentrate on music and began playing the piano. He sang lead on the infectious "Come On", a 1960 local hit for the Distants, and a less successful follow-up, "Open Your Heart". He co-wrote "Can You Do It" for The Contours, "Welfare Cheese", a catchy rhythm'n'blues single by Emanuel Lasky, and also issued "Answer Me" with the Distants on Thelma, the label owned by Gordy's first wife.

He then formed the Monitors, a quartet whose six 45s – particularly the minor hits "Say You" and the topical "Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam)", about the Vietnam draft – have become highly collectable. In 1969 he married Carolyn Gill of the Velvelettes.

Street struggled to make much headway as a producer and arranger and seemed stuck at quality control until his recruitment by the Temps. "Being a Temptation wasn't that much pressure for me because I'd always been around Motown," he remarked.

His fluid tenor and smooth baritone blended well with the other four members, to the delight of Whitfield, who enjoyed using four or five vocalists trading leads on tracks like "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)" (1971) and "Plastic Man" (1973), and he paired Street with Harris on "Heavenly" (1974).

Jeffrey Bowen adopted the same technique producing "Glasshouse" (from 1975's A Song for You) and pushed Street to the fore on "China Doll" (from 1976's Wings of Love), but the Temps fared less well when they defected to Atlantic. Following their return to Motown in 1980, Street co-wrote several tracks on the albums Power, Back to Basics and To Be Continued… and was present when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, despite not being included in the nomination.

He fell out with Otis Williams after missing a show because of an emergency operation to remove kidney stones in 1992. When the information wasn't relayed to the group's leader, he confronted Street, who decided his lack of concern was no way to treat a friend, and left. He was replaced by Theo Peoples. He continued to perform, and toured the UK last autumn. He had been writing an autobiography, Ball of Confusion. He died of a pulmonary embolism.

"The Temptations songs were message songs of the times, about what was going on with the world," he said last year. "You had to represent your race. 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. We did not know we would make such a stir."

Richard Allen Street, singer, songwriter, pianist and producer: born Detroit 5 October 1942; married 1969 Carolyn Gill (divorced 1983, one son); one daughter; married Cynthia (one son, one daughter); died Las Vegas 27 February 2013.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform