11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Just Mark's Imagination,
This review is from: Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations (Hardcover)This book is highly flawed, and a big disappointment. A giant "citation needed" warning needs to placed over the entire thing, with much of the information presented seeming to conform to Mark Ribowsky's own biases, and very little evidence in most cases of where often wild claims originated.
Sadly, Otis Williams' perspective reigns supreme, with Ruffin and Kendricks yet again getting the shaft. Their perspectives, available through many interviews they gave during their lifetimes, are either ignored or outright dismissed in the most condescending way possible, while Otis' word is too frequently taken as gospel. David and Eddie's relationship with each other is denigrated, and their more frequently than not legitimate complaints regarding Motown are mocked. (Rather strangely, as in every instance other than when Ruffin or Kendricks have a problem, Motown business management is rightly portrayed in a highly cynical light.) Kendricks is cruelly accused of "shamelessly exploiting" his best friend Paul Williams' depression and alcoholism, portrayed as Ruffin's puppet instead of his own freethinking person with his own legitimate complaints, mocked for his addiction to cigarettes, and little given his due as one of history's greatest soul singers. Meanwhile, Ruffin's feet are held to the fire for every infraction throughout his life EXCEPT for the one that is most unforgivable -- his violence against women.
Another huge letdown is how the author wasted his access to Dennis Edwards, failing to verify stories with him or gain alternate accounts where they certainly would have been relevant. As he was close with both Ruffin and Kendricks, and is usually honest yet sympathetic when discussing them, Edwards' perspective could have provided a real balancing of the book. Sadly, he is very rarely quoted, and his own role within the group is marginalized, as though Otis and Melvin were the real driving forces behind the Tempts' success.
But most inexcusable of all was the brief yet astoundingly horrific treatment of Tammi Terrell. Ribowsky generally gives off the impression of not exactly liking women -- all women present in this book are shrews, servants, or sluts -- and goes out of his way to vilify Terrell and blame her for David Ruffin's extraordinary violence against her. With no evidence other than that Tammi was not sufficiently docile and submissive for Ribowsky's taste, Ruffin and Terrell are portrayed as more or less on equal footing, each giving as good as they got. Tammi talked back, David beat the snot of her -- all even, apparently. Terrell's personality is explained as the cause of Ruffin's abuse; indeed, the abuse is called a "consequence" of the fact that she liked sex, drank, and swore. It is misogynistic to the extreme, and likely to be particularly upsetting to women who are survivors of intimate partner violence. The author and the editors should all be ashamed of themselves on this count. This book only offers the "truth" behind David and Tammi's relationship if your version of the "truth" depends on centuries old victim-blaming that says women who are abused by their male partners must have somehow deserved it.
The highlight of the book is its beginning -- the information about each individual Tempt's start is invaluable, and, in the cases of Eddie, Paul, and David, largely previously unavailable. This early section, the only one which is well-sourced, provides charming anecdotes and background; it would have been lovely if the rest of the book had been as endearing and evenhanded. This, along with the fact that Ribowsky successfully convinced Otis Williams to expand on the stories he told in his own book and drop the self-censorship, is why my star rating ranks as high as it does.
The Tempts were all highly flawed individuals. Their stories deserve equal telling, their words deserve equal weight, and their lives and actions deserve both equal sympathy and an equally critical stance. The biased handling in which only some members are taken seriously, only some are held accountable, and nowhere can these two groups overlap, is lazy, boring, and often offensive. The Temptations most certainly deserve a better treatment than this, one which we can hope is still forthcoming.
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Initial post: Dec 29, 2011 4:08:34 PM PST
T. V. Champion says:
As a frequent Amazon reviewer, but a lifetime Temptation fan.I can state with COMPLETE CONFIDENCE that I have NEVER read a better review of any product that I have seen on the Amazon site than this.Please believe, coming from the perspective of a lifelong Temp fan and frequent reviewer of their material myself, I have not even read this book yet, but from having the other books and the available videos I can defintely understand and agree with the reviewers points unanimously, and also with the reviewer who stated who the real talents in the group were.I think that anyone who watches the Temps with a analytic eye will think the same.Out of the hundreds of reviews I have read.You deserve a hearty "GREAT JOB"!!!!
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