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Motown Loses Two Greats: Temptations Singers Damon Harris and Richard Street

Both sang on 1971 classic "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"

Two singers who left a mark on Motown and music history as members of the Temptations have died in recent days.

Otis “Damon” Harris, who joined the group in 1971 and left in 1975, died on Monday after a 14-year-long struggle with prostate cancer, family spokesman Chuck Woodson told the Baltimore Sun. He was 62. Richard Street, who was an official member of the group from 1971 to 1993, died on Wednesday of a pulmonary embolism, the Detroit Free Press reports. Street was 70.

Both Harris and Street sang on the Temptations’ final Hot 100 chart-topper, 1971’s psychedelic-soul classic “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” Harris, who was the youngest member of the Temptations when he joined, had sung in a Temptations tribute group, and he was invited into the Tempts on the condition he changed his name (to avoid confusion with co-founder Otis Williams). Street had long ties to the Temptations before joining, having sometimes filled in for singer Paul Williams. 

The Temptations scored numerous Top 40 hits on the Billboard R&B chart during Street’s time with the group. But “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” remains probably the most indelible record with both Harris and Street. It came at a time when the Temptations had already become more psychedelic and political, on late-’60s songs like “Psychedelic Shack” and “Cloud Nine.” Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams had already left the group, as had David Ruffin, but Harris and Street — not to mention producer-songwriter Norman Whitfield and songwriter Barrett Strong — helped ensure the Temptations would still make enduring music even as times changed drastically.