It’s hard to beat The Temptations when it comes to chart-topping hits. “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and “Get Ready” are just a few tunes planted in pop music’s canon, but the list goes on — almost too long.
“We play a lot of the hits, but we can’t do them all. We’ve been together too long!” says Dennis Edwards, an on-again-off-again Temptation since 1968 who leads “The Temptations Review,” appearing at Yoshi’s this week.
The show gives fans the classic Temptations experience: great tunes delivered with smooth moves and sartorial flair.
“When The Temptations began, we wanted to be visual,” Edwards says. “So we did our own choreography and developed our own uniforms.” “The Temptations Review” also improvises a bit, adjusting the set list and moves to the vibes of the crowd.
“We never do two shows the same way,” Edwards says. “The audience has a lot to do with that spontaneity, and it’s our job to satisfy them.”
Edwards replaced David Ruffin as the lead singer in 1968. Edwards’ first single with the group, “Cloud Nine,” earned the Motown label its first Grammy Award in 1968 and ushered The Temptations into funk and psychedelic years.
Edwards was a Temptation for nearly a decade before his first departure in 1977. He later rejoined and left again, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Temptation in 1989. He has been leading “The Temptations Review” since the 1990s.
Edwards didn’t expect such a lengthy career. Nearly 45 years after becoming a Temptation, he is booked on a weekly basis with only the occasional vacation, performing several nights a week across the country and sometimes internationally.
“I used to tell my mother, ‘I’m going to have to get a real job one day,’” Edwards says, laughing. “You keep saying this will end one day, but people still call us up and ask us to sing. It’s truly amazing.”
As a long-standing act in global demand for decades, The Temptations have had their fair share of drama.
Ruffin’s prima donna eccentricities resulted in his mutiny, and several band members battled drug and alcohol addictions. Those stories have been broadcast, most widely in a 1998 NBC miniseries called “The Temptations,” which homed in on Ruffin’s abuse issues and death.
“For everything that happens on screen, there’s something that happens off screen,” Edwards says. “When you see how someone died, and the way people think about them, you wish you could change it, because that isn’t the whole man. There were good things too, but good things don’t sell.”
Good things that do sell, though, are The Temptations’ tunes, which still sound great decades after they were hits.
“The secret to The Temptations is the music, simple music about a man loving a woman,” Edwards says. “We talk about the lady when we need her, when we want her to be there, we talk about ain’t too proud to beg. It’s simple, you know? You can’t go wrong.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 10 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $40 to $100
Contact: (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com