Ali-Ollie Woodson, who led the legendary Motown quintet The Temptations in the 1980s and ’90s and helped restore them to their hit-making glory with songs including “Treat Her Like A Lady,” has died, a friend said. He was 58.
Woodson died Sunday in southern California after battling cancer, Motown Alumni Association President Billy Wilson said. Wilson said Woodson’s wife, Juanita, told him about the death Sunday.
Woodson was not an original member of the group, which had several lineup changes since it started in the 1960s. But he played an integral part in keeping the Temptations from becoming just nostalgia act.
By the early 1980s, the Temptations were no longer posting hit after hit like they did in the 1960s and ’70s with classics such as “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.”
The group had lost original members, and Woodson was charged with replacing Dennis Edwards, whose passionate voice defined the group during the 1970s.
Woodson’s voice, though similar to Edwards’ with its fiery tone, was distinct in itself, and helped the group notch the R&B hits “Treat Her Like A Lady” – which he wrote and sang lead on – “Sail Away” and “Lady Soul,” from 1984 to 1986.
“He had a coolness about himself that was really very inviting,” said Wilson. He said he first met Woodson in 1980 before Woodson joined the group and that he last spoke with his friend about two weeks ago.
Despite his fame, Woodson was “always a gentleman and always polite and kind to everybody. If we ever asked him to do anything, he never said, ‘Well, it’s going to cost you.’ He’d always say, ‘Yeah, let’s go,'” said Wilson, who founded the Detroit-based Motown association in the mid-1990s.
“He was just a star performer. Wonderful person. Wonderful, wonderful person,” Wilson said. “He was very kind.”
“He was an excellent singer,” Wilson told the Detroit News. “He’s one of the few singers who was accommodating to virtually everything. He had a style and swagger about himself that was different than the other Temptations.”
After leaving the group, Woodson began a solo career, and often toured with a Temptations-like revue called Ali-Ollie Woodson & the Emperors of Soul (Emperors of Soul being the name of the Tempts’ 1994 box set).
In 1997, he guest starred on an episode of The Jamie Foxx Show as a patient in a mental hospital. He also appeared in a handful of movies after that.
The singer also released a solo album, “Right Here All Along,” in 2001.
From 2006-2008, he was in The Temptations Revue featuring Dennis Edwards, although he and Edwards were never Tempts members at the same time. Woodson also toured with Aretha Franklin in 2008.
Comedienne/actress Luenell, who performed on the same bill as Woodson at the Hollywood Park Casino, offered her thoughts on his passing.
“Ali Woodson was one of the few iconic soul singers left from the Motown era that could still sell out a crowd, light up a party and make the women scream,” she said. “Ali and I have loved, fought, flew and cruised these United States together. His raspy but golden tones will be missed, but his music, acting and friendship will last in my heart forever.”
Messages were left Monday for a producer and a manager who worked with Woodson. A recorded message at a phone number for his wife said the voice mailbox was full.
Funeral services are pending.