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New single pairs the Temptations with Smokey Robinson for first collaboration in decades

Brian McCollum, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Entertainment News

As he brainstormed ideas for an album that would celebrate 60 years of the Temptations, Otis Williams had an epiphany.

If we're making a record for the Tempts' diamond anniversary, Williams thought to himself, Smokey Robinson has to be part of it.

It was Robinson, after all, who had ignited the group's Motown career in 1964 with "The Way You Do the Things You Do" — the first in a host of Temptations hits he wrote and produced, including "My Girl," "Get Ready" and "Since I Lost My Baby."

Williams' out-of-the-blue phone call to his old friend resulted in their latest project together: The new single "Is It Gonna Be Yes or No," a piece of warm, vintage Smokey songcraft, landed overnight Friday.

It's a taste of the forthcoming Temptations album, due in 2022.

"Is It Gonna Be Yes or No" wasn't merely written and produced by Robinson. It also features him as a vocal guest alongside Williams — the lone surviving member from the group's "classic five" days — and current Tempts Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Willie Greene and Mario Corbino.

It's the first time Robinson and the Temptations have sung together on a Tempts release, and just the second time they've done it at all. (Robinson and the group performed "The Christmas Song" for a 1989 Motown holiday compilation.)

When Williams reached out to Smokey, he says he told him: "You're a big reason why we jumped out with 'The Way You Do the Things You Do.' Smokey, it's only right that you should be on this. Not only singing with us — we'd love for you to write it and produce it."

 

He says Robinson was immediately receptive, responding to Williams with his longtime nickname for the Tempts' baritone: "Oak, no problem. Just let me know when and where."

"I proceeded to write a new song for them," Robinson said in a statement. "And I was very happy to, because it's been a long time."

Musicians enlisted by Robinson for the session include Dave Garfield (keyboards), Freddie Washington (bass) and Steve Ferrone (drums).

"We just wanted to have a great contribution to our fans all over the world that have supported the Tempts and allowing us to be around for 60 years," Williams said. "I think it's a great capstone of what we've created."

"Is It Gonna Be Yes or No" is part of a year-long Temptations 60th anniversary campaign that kicked off this summer.

Meanwhile, the Tony-winning Temptations musical, "Ain't Too Proud," is scheduled to resume on Broadway in October. The show's touring company is set to return to the road in December, including a hometown Detroit run at the Fisher Theatre next August.

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