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How Did Temptations Singer Eddie Kendricks Die? His Brave Cancer Battle

how did temptations singer eddie kendricks die image of the temptations in 1964 how did the temptations singer david ruffin die
Image is in the Public Domain

When we think of the Temptations, Eddie Kendrick is one of those that we know deep down that, without him, the Temptations may have never come to be, at least not the Temptations the world grew to love when they burst onto the scene in the 1960s. The group that brought to life hits of rhythm-and-blues, soul, funk, and progressive and psychedelic soul had some memorable with our favorite inaugural tenor and falsetto singer. So, when years of smoking started to affect that and then ultimately took him away from the world, hearts everywhere were broken. 

Who was Eddie Kendricks, and how did Temptations singer Eddie Kendricks die? Find out that and more below. 

how did paul williams die the temptations on the ed sullivan show
1969 Press Publicity Photograph. Image is in the Public Domain. Publicity for Motown Records & The Ed Sullivan Show Left to right: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, and Dennis Edwards.

How Did Temptations Singer Eddie Kendricks Die?

Eddie Kendricks’s cause of death was sadly lung cancer. His battle was fierce and brave, though. 

He was first diagnosed in 1981 when doctors found a “pin drop” of cancer on one of his lungs, for which he refused to undergo chemotherapy because he didn’t want to lose his hair. It seemed all was well for the next ten years, too. But then, 1991 came, and the diagnosis was made a second time. 

After being diagnosed in 1991, Kendricks still didn’t undergo chemotherapy, but he hoped to stop the cancer from spreading by undergoing surgery to remove one of his lungs. 

Believed to be caused by his 30 years of smoking, it seemed as though the surgery helped improve his health, and he was soon touring with Ruffin, Kendrick, and Edwards (the group formed from former lead singers of The Temptations). Unfortunately, by the summer of 1992, things deteriorated yet again, and he was hospitalized. 

He would later die just a few months later at Baptist Medical Center – Princeton in Birmingham. 

Related: 20 Singers Diagnosed with Cancer

When Did Eddie Kendricks Die?

Eddie Kendricks passed away on October 5, 1992. 

He is survived by his three children. It’s possible that the “My People … Hold On” singer was also survived by extended family, including his sister and brothers. 

How Old Was Eddie Kendricks When He Died?

Eddie Kendricks was just 52 years old when he passed away. 

Where is Eddie Kendricks Buried At?

Following Eddie Kendricks’ funeral, he was interred at Elmwood Cemetery & Mausoleum in Birmingham, Alabama. The cemetery was established in 1900, eclipsing Oak Hill Cemetery in 1906. 

Eddie Kendricks’ funeral was held at First Baptist Church in Ensley, Alabama before a private burial was held. Later, four concerts were held in Los Angeles on Oct. 16 and 17 at the Strand to pay tribute to the late musician.

Among the star lineup of performers included Bobby Womack, Mary Wilson, Vesta Williams, and Chaka Khan. The performances included the singing of originals as well as those of The Temptations’ biggest hits. 

the temptations singer
Photo of the Temptations in 1971. Image by Multi-Media Management/Gordy Records on Wikimedia Commons.

Who Inherited Eddie Kendricks’s Money?

At Eddie Kendricks’ death, the singer-songwriter was worth approximately $5 million. So, what did Eddie Kendricks’ will say about who would inherit Eddie Kendricks’ estate? That may be something we’ll never know, as the terms of Eddie Kendrick’s will were never publicly disclosed. It is most reasonable to guess that Eddie Kendrick’s estate was inherited and split among his three children. 

Related: 15 Musicians Diagnosed with Cancer

When was Eddie Kendricks Born?

Eddie Kendricks’s birthdate was December 17, 1939. 

Eddie Kendricks’s Zodiac sign was Sagittarius. That means he had a lot of really positive traits, including being adventurous, honest, optimistic, idealistic, and so much more. Based on what we know of him and his career, we’d say that all of those are pretty accurate. 

Where was Eddie Kendricks From?

Eddie Kendricks was born in Union Springs, Alabama before he and his family moved to Birmingham’s Ensley neighborhood. 

Where Did Eddie Kendricks Live?

At the time of Eddie Kendricks’ death, he was living in Birmingham, Alabama. 

How Tall was Eddie Kendricks?

Eddie Kendricks’ height was 6 feet, 1 inch tall. 

the temptations star on the hollywood walk of fame
Image from Shutterstock.

How Did Eddie Kendricks Become Famous?

Like his fellow group members, Eddie Kendricks, even with his solo career endeavors, is best known for his time as a member and co-founder of the Temptations from 1960 to 1971. It is what made him famous, after all. Soon, he became known for his unique vocal sound, leading the charge on such songs as “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me),” and “Get Ready.” 

Eddie Kendricks’s Parents

Eddie Kendrick was the son of Johnny Kendrick and Lee Bell Kendrick. 

Eddie Kendricks’s Siblings

Eddie Kendricks was one of five children. Eddie Kendricks’ sister, Patricia, was his only one. Eddie Kendricks’ brothers were named Charles, Robert, and Clarence. 

Who Was Eddie Kendricks Married To?

Not much is known about his personal life, so was Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations ever married? Yes. He was married to his wife, Patricia Kendrick, the mother of his children, until 1975. It is unknown how long the pair were together before they ultimately split. 

Did Eddie Kendricks ever date Diana Ross? 

While it’s not clear whether Eddie Kendricks and Diana Ross actually dated, there were some statements made by his fellow Temptations member Otis Williams that suggested that Kendricks did try and romantically pursue the lead singer of the Supremes. He did, however, take the lead on “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” in 1968, which was a duet between the Temptations and Diana Ross and the Supremes. 

Eddie Kendricks’s Children

Eddie Kendricks had three children. They were Parris, Aika, and Paul Kendricks, the latter being named after the late Paul Williams of the Temptations, who died of suicide on August 17, 1973. 

Related: How Did Temptations Singer Paul Williams Die?

Why Did Eddie Kendricks Leave the Temptations?

Eddie Kendricks left the Temptations simply because he and the other group members grew apart, eventually finding himself at odds with such bandmates as Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams. 

Were Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin Friends?

As Eddie Kendricks drifted away from the Temptations, there was a blessing that seemed to come out of it. He was able to rekindle his friendship with former Temptations lead singer David Ruffin, who had already left the group. In fact, it is believed that Ruffin is the one who ultimately convinced Kendricks to step away from the group.


Like many of the talents back in the day, Eddie Kendricks got his start in music in the sacred house of worship, joining the church choir with his best friend, Paul Williams, in the late 1940s. Fifteen years later, the pair, along with their friends Jerome Averette and Kell Osborne, formed the Cavaliers, a doo-wop group, eventually moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in hopes of finding opportunities. 

Upon meeting Milton Jenkins, a manager, they then moved to Detroit, Michigan, and changed their name to the Primes. This is what led to the spin-off group, the Primettes, later known as the Supremes. When the Primes disbanded in 1961, Kendricks and Williams didn’t let it get them down. 

They soon came together with Elbridge “Al” Bryant, Otis Williams, and Melvin “Blue” Franklin, formerly known as Otis Williams and the Distants, as the Temptations was just getting started and signed to Motown Records. 

Although things were slow to start, the Temptations quickly became one of the most popular and successful singing groups of the 1960s. Throughout the decade, he served as the lead vocalist on a number of hits for the group, including “I’ll Be in Trouble,” “The Girl’s Alright with Me,” and “Please Return Your Love to Me.” Additionally, he shared lead vocals with David Ruffin on a few hits, as well as on songs like the Grammy Award winner “Cloud Nine” and “Ball of Confusion,” which all the lead vocalists shared. 

Kendricks wasn’t just a lead vocalist for the group. He was also responsible for creating most of their vocal arrangements and co-wrote songs such as “Isn’t She Pretty” and “Don’t Send Me Away.” He had an eye for fashion, too, serving as the group’s wardrobe manager. 

how did temptations singer david ruffin die how did paul williams temptations singer die
Photo of the music group The Temptations in 1968. Image is in the Public Domain.

It seemed as though his time with the Temptations was going strong, as he found a whole host of success, but according to a 1991 interview with Urban Street, he started considering leaving the group in 1965. He said things “weren’t quite proper,” and the band was working with people who “didn’t have their best interests at heart.” 

His relationship with Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, wasn’t great either, adding, “Berry Gordy is a man I don’t know, I only met him about three times,” but “I know he didn’t particularly care for me.” 

After finally breaking away from the group in 1971, Kendricks pursued a solo career for the first time. From that, the world was gifted with several Eddie Kendricks songs, one of his most popular being the number one single, “Keep on Truckin.’” 

He also released multiple albums under a few labels, including Motown Records (also known as Tamla), Arista Records, Atlantic Recording Corporation, and RCA Records. 

As he began to lose his signature falsetto/tenor range that he was best known for due to years of chain-smoking, his solo career began to slow down in the late 1970s. However, fans got what they’d been hoping for in 1982 when he and Ruffin rejoined the Temptations for their 1982 reunion tour and a reunion album.

It was this that brought fans “Standing on the Top,” although Kendricks did not have any lead vocals on the new album because of his inability to hit notes, according to the interviews. It was soon after that it was discovered that there were the first signs of lung cancer. He “Kept on Truckin’” though, taking part in several more performances with Ruffin and later Dennis Edwards, billed as the “Former Leads of the Temptations.” That is, until his final health decline in 1992. 


There is no doubt that Eddie Kendricks’s dedication was to the music until the very end. What else would you expect of a Grammy-nominated, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and, posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner (2013) and National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame inductee (2019)? 

Since Eddie Kendrick’s death, he has continued to be honored with the NBC autobiographical miniseries The Temptations in 1998, for which Terron Brooks portrayed Kendricks. Additionally, the Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park was established at the corner of 18th Street and 4th Avenue North in Birmingham on October 16, 1999. The park features a bronze sculpture of the late singer, created by Ron McDowell, accompanied by sculptures of other Temptations bandmembers on a granite wall. 

It only confirms what we already know. Eddie Kendricks will live on forever in our hearts. 

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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