BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Eddie Kendricks, whose soaring falsetto was one of the signatures of the Temptations' remarkable vocal versatility, has died at age 52.
Mr. Kendricks was a founding member and lead singer of the singing group that played such an integral role in the early history of Motown Records.
A spokeswoman for Baptist Medical Center-Princeton said the singer died of lung cancer last night. Mr. Kendricks, a native of Birmingham, had been hospitalized since Sept. 25. Another early Motown artist, singer Stevie Wonder, had visited him Saturday.
When the Temptations were formed in Detroit in 1961, the group consisted of Mr. Kendricks, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams and Elbridge Bryant. David Ruffin replaced Mr. Bryant in 1964, and the group signed with the Motown label.
Mr. Kendricks and Mr. Ruffin, the other lead singer, gave the act an unusual ability to shift between romantic songs that featured Mr. Kendricks' golden-throated smoothness, such as "The Way You Do The Things You Do," and the harsher -- sometimes gospel -- texture of Ruffin, on songs such as "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."
After Mr. Ruffin left the group, and the Temptations attempted to craft songs more relevant to the social chaos of the the late 1960s, Mr. Kendricks stretched his form in dramatic, arching performances that moved away from his earlier style.
The group had its first No. 1 hit with the Smoky Robinson composition "My Girl" in 1965, followed by "It's Growing" and "Since I Lost My Baby" that same year.