5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations (Hardcover)
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The trick to writing a decent biography about pop culture icons starts and ends with your subject matter. That's why almost any biography about a troubled and triumphant Johnny Cash will be a top selling page turner, whereas a biography of a clean living and ultra conservative Cliff Richard may not be. So - with the Temptations, Mark Ribowsky has ample material to fill this biography about one of Soul and Pop music's favourite groups.
Despite being a soul music fan, I must admit I had no idea just how much (and how quickly) the line up of the Tempts changed over the years, with it's one stalwart being Otis Williams. It's worth bearing this in mind as you begin the book and there is a lengthy introduction explaining that most of the book was based on the recollections and account of Otis Williams as the only surviving original Tempt. This, for the cynical amongst us, might give warning that the book is overly biased on one point of view - but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that Otis, despite being the only survivor, is probably the only one who would be able to recall anything clearly anyway. Plus it also becomes clear that he was the driving force behind a group that would have otherwise folded at several points in their history.
As for Ribowsky, his evangelising about the Tempts is only matched by his loathing of Berry Gordy. He never misses an opportunity in the book to trot out stories of Gordy's megalomania, his pursuit of Diana Ross (who Ribowsky is also scathing about), and his dodgy deals when it came to royalties and Motown contracts. Justified or not, it becomes a little bit of a repetative axe grinding ever present in the 300 pages of the book!
For the structure, as it is written in chronological order, it is almost as if Ribowsky has started with the Discography and just fleshed it out with stories of debauchery, drugs, drink and dance moves. Aside from real Billboard Buffs, I venture that there would be many readers who would start to skip over the paragraphs about chart positions (with the R&B chart position also being quoted incessantly), especially for the lesser known singles and albums, which seem not to make too much of a dent anyway.
There are some hairy stories contained within, but I must say that I went back and listened to those classic David Ruffin fronted singles (My Girl, Ain't too proud) with a new appreciation for the ravaged man behind the voice. This book is an interesting read for anyone who wants to be interested, but might be a tad too much and too drawn out for your average common or garden pop music fan.