Temptations singer abused before his death, court documents allege

BY ERIN HEFFERNAN
AND DENISE HOLLINSHED
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH/TNS

ST. LOUIS – Chicago police are investigating allegations that Dennis Edwards, a Grammy-winning singer with the Motown group the Temptations, was abused shortly before his death.

Dennis
Edwards

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee died at a Chicago hospital on Feb. 1 from complications of meningitis, according to his wife, Brenda Edwards. He was 74 and had lived in the St. Louis area for more than 30 years.

Court documents filed by an adult protective services investigator allege that weeks before the singer’s death, Brenda Edwards abused her husband.

Wife accused
An investigator with the Healthcare Consortium of Illinois filed the protection order request on behalf of Dennis Edwards Jan. 12 in Chicago, where the couple lived together before Edwards’ death.

The documents allege that Brenda Edwards had attempted to suffocate her husband by holding his head face down on a bed.

The investigator also accused Brenda Edwards of taking her husband’s hearing aids from him, according to a petition for an order of protection.

Removed from home
The documents say Edwards was “bedbound and immobile.”

Dennis Edwards was removed from the home because of medical issues, according to the Jan. 12 document.

An emergency protective order against Brenda Edwards was granted Jan. 18, barring her from contact with Dennis Edwards.

A hearing that would have allowed Brenda Edwards to respond to the allegations was scheduled for Feb. 2, but was canceled after her husband’s death the day before.

Married 18 years
Brenda Edwards disputed the allegations in a brief statement released Monday night.

“I loved Dennis and we were married for 18 years,” she said. “I would have never done anything to harm him. These allegations are false and defamatory and will be proven as such. Until this is all over, I have no further comment.”

The Chicago Police Department confirmed Monday that there is an open criminal investigation into the matter.

Until recently, Dennis and Brenda Edwards lived in north St. Louis County, and property records show the house remains listed in Dennis Edwards’ name.

The couple recently moved to Chicago to seek better health care, according to Dennis Edwards’ daughter Denise Edwards.

Official sixth member
Dennis Edwards lived in the St. Louis area for more than 30 years. He was born in Alabama and moved to Detroit as a young boy, but moved to the St. Louis area in the 1980s to be closer to his mother.

While Edwards wasn’t an original singer with the classic Temptations lineup — David Ruffin, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Otis Williams — he was the official sixth member.

It was his rough-and-tough signature voice that helped guide the Temptations through its funk-psychedelic period on classic tunes such as “Cloud Nine,” “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today),” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and “I Can’t Get Next to You.” (“Cloud Nine” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” were Grammy-winning songs.)
The Temptations were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Solo career
Williams fired Edwards in 1977, but he was in and out of the group for years to come.

Through it all, he focused on a solo career, scoring a huge hit with “Don’t Look Any Further” featuring singer Siedah Garrett in 1984. The song received new life years later after rappers and singers heavily sampled its beat.
His solo career also included “(You’re My) Aphrodisiac” and “Try a Little Tenderness.”

While touring as Dennis Edwards & the Temptations, Edwards ran into legal problems with his former group mate Williams and changed the group name to the Temptations Review.

‘One of the greats’
Ronald Isley of the Isley Brothers, a longtime friend of Edwards, called him “one of the greats. He had a gift, a talent, and he really sang. There aren’t many people left with voices like his.”

Isley, who knew Edwards had been ailing, said “we prayed for him and hoped he would get himself together and be able to come back. But he’s with the Lord now.”

A number of other famous names paid tribute to Edwards, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Kenny Rogers, Roland Martin and the Pointer Sisters (Edwards was briefly married to Ruth Pointer in 1977).

Survivors of Dennis Edwards include five daughters, a son and several grandchildren.

Kevin C. Johnson of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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