Paul Williams

July 2, 1939 – August 17, 1973

Paul Williams was a founding member of the legendary Motown vocal group, the Temptations. Williams grew up in Alabama and began his singing career with childhood friend, Eddie Kendricks. The two formed a singing group and – though they never recorded – found enough success to get noticed in the booming R&B scene of 1960’s Detroit. After losing their manager and essentially disbanding their group, Williams and Kendricks were approached by rival Detroit singing group, The Elgins, and asked to join. The five members decided to forge ahead as equal partners in the new group and sought out a much-desired contract with Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. Once they settled on the new name, the Temptations, Gordy signed them and they got to work.

Williams shared early lead-singing duties with Al Bryant and his soulful voice can be heard most prominently on the group’s 1963 single “I Want a Love I Can See.” That same year, Bryant was replaced by David Ruffin and the group’s “Classic 5” lineup was in place. Williams didn’t sing lead much after that, but served as the main choreographer for the group and was thereby responsible for some of the Temptations’ most iconic dance moves. He got so adept at it that he even helped choreograph for other Motown acts, including fellow superstars, the Supremes.

The pressure and demands of fame started to get to Paul and the former choir boy who never so much as looked at alcohol, suddenly found himself sneaking drinks to take the edge off. His growing appetite for booze coupled with his prolonged battle with sickle-cell anemia led to health and dependability issues. The others did what they could to keep Paul away from alcohol, but he eventually was forced to step back from performing. He was replaced by Richard Street while he recovered.

Two years after being sidelined from the group he loved, Paul Williams was found dead in his car from a self-inflicted gun shot wound. The one-time heart and soul of one of the biggest acts in the world was gone at the age of 34.


Lincoln Memorial Park – Clinton, MI

Specific Location

Lot 275, Grave #4, Section #G – Enter the memorial park and turn left. Up ahead on your right will be a service shelter with a tree right before it. Paul is buried about 6 rows east of this tree.


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