TRACK OF THE WEEK
DAY & DATE: Debuts on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart for the week ending Saturday, October 27, 1984.
SONGWRITERS: Ali-Ollie Woodson, Otis Williams.
PRODUCERS: Albert Phillip McKay, Ralph Randolph Johnson.
BACKSTORY: It was rare, but not unprecedented, for the Temptations to compose the songs they recorded. After all, founding member Otis Williams co-wrote their first 45 for Motown, “Oh, Mother Of Mine,” released on the company’s Miracle label in 1961. When baritone Ali-Ollie Woodson joined the group 22 years later to replace Dennis Edwards, his skill as a singer – who had previously been part of Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes – was not the Detroit native’s only asset. “His strong suit was melodies,” recalled Williams in his autobiography, Temptations. “He played several instruments in addition to being a fantastic, flexible singer.”
Woodson’s strength came to the fore with “Treat Her Like A Lady,” the first single from the group’s 31st album, Truly For You. The song first took shape when Woodson was living in New York in the late ’70s, after leaving the Blue Notes. That’s also when he penned the title track of the Temptations’ 32nd album, Touch Me. “On the three albums we recorded with Ollie – Truly For You, Touch Me and To Be Continued – eleven of the 27 tracks were written by one or more Tempts,” Williams declared. It was “another thing we were very pleased with.”
To produce Truly For You, the group had the services of Al McKay and Ralph Johnson, former members of Earth, Wind & Fire. It was their first work as producers since leaving Maurice White’s supergroup. McKay told Harry Weinger for the liner notes of Emperors of Soul, the 1994 chronicle of the Temptations’ Motown career, “Ollie challenged me. ‘Man, you should play the piano like this.’ Then he went out there and showed me. The song just came alive, even more than it was.”
“Treat Her Like A Lady” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard R&B charts, making it the Temptations’ most successful single since “Shakey Ground” in 1975. It fared less well on the pop listings, but reached No. 12 on the best-sellers in the U.K., where it became one of the group’s all-time most popular songs. Under the circumstances, it was no surprise that another member of the quintet at that time, Richard Street, called Woodson “a bright and shining star.” His creative contributions continued on their next two albums: he co-wrote five tracks on Touch Me, and two on To Be Continued, including the title track with Otis Williams. Clearly, Woodson knew how to treat a song as well as a lady.
FOOTNOTE: The musician playing bass on “Treat Her Like A Lady” and the Temptations’ Truly For You album was none other than James Jamerson Jr., son of the Motown studio band’s one-of-a-kind bass player. The younger Jamerson had an impressive resumé of his own, working with Teena Marie, Bob Dylan, Herb Alpert, the Four Tops, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson, among many others. In the 1970s, he and guitarist David Williams formed Chanson, whose “Don’t Hold Back” was a substantial 1978 pop and R&B hit. In 2013, Jamerson stood in his father’s place, playing bass in “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown Live!” – a tour marking the tenth anniversary of the Motown documentary of that name, which chronicled and honored the company’s unmatchable studio band, known as the Funk Brothers. Jamerson Jr. died in 2016 at age 58.