Dressed in an outfit that matched four other singers, Otis Williams had soaked his shirt with seat by the end of the concert—drenched with sweat after 46 years on the music tour.
Williams is the last of the original Temptations singing with the group that bears that name and his performance at the Sage Insights reseller conference this month could have easily taken place in the first five years, given the energy and enthusiasm with which he and the other members (not all youngsters either) filled each number.
We hear a lot about the need for passion. What does it take to maintain passion in the same job for 46 years? Like most jobs, it takes competence, because passion without basic skills is the mark of the village idiot.
It’s more than passion. It takes work to maintain the vocal flexibility, the physical fitness and coordination to run through choreographed moves, and it takes the ability to get along with people. The band had about fifteen members and a conductor and it was clear the horn section members were freelancers and only the five singers and the rhythm section likely travel together. But that’s like working with your family and living with them in a bus. It takes some people skills to pull this off, and to do this with changing personnel while maintaining quality and the same sound.
The truly great groups do this. Others, with legendary musicians, blow apart and feud bitterly; sometimes getting back together when they need money. Or maybe they don’t.
Consider the Rolling Stones whose leaps and thrusts are as deliberately planned as the Temptations’ routines. In his 60s, Mike Jagger has the lean look of a professional dancer and enthusiasm like a man in his 20s. Perhaps the Temptations need the dough, but it’s hard to believe the Stones are doing this for the money.
We’ve long been subjected to how sports builds teamwork and leadership. How many of us draw that lesson from music? But unless you are doing a solo guitar or piano CD, few musicians perform alone.
Most of the conferences in this business, and probably in others, have motivational speakers. Wouldn’t it be educational to hear one of the Grateful Dead members talking about how the kept the band motivated for so many years until Jerry Garcia died?
For all the jokes about Keith Richards as one of the living dead, “When I’m 64” is now for him, while drummer Charlie Watts is 66.
Teamwork? Motivation? Staying fresh? Maybe these old men should bottle it for business.
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