Mr. Ruffin told him personally that he was going to get the job, showing up at his house very early in the morning, Mr. Edwards said. “I thought he was kidding,” he said.
But at his first show with the Temptations, and some later ones, he recalled, Mr. Ruffin showed up, leapt onstage and took the microphone from him to sing some of his older hits. In time he left Mr. Edwards alone.
Mr. Edwards joined the Temptations just as the group, under the direction of the producer and songwriter Norman Whitfield, was developing a grittier sound, one largely influenced by the psychedelic soul of Sly & the Family Stone and very different from their earlier songs, like “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”
The other members of the group — Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin and Paul Williams — also sang lead, notably Mr. Kendricks. But Mr. Edwards was an essential part of the group’s new sound on songs like “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” and “Shakey Ground.”
Shortly after Mr. Edwards joined the group, the Temptations won their first Grammy, for the propulsive, upbeat “Cloud Nine” (1968); they won another for the funk anthem “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1971). That song, like two other Temptations hits from that period — “I Can’t Get Next to You” and “Just My Imagination” (on which Mr. Kendricks sang lead) — reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart.
The group received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2013.
Mr. Edwards left the Temptations in 1977 to pursue a solo career but rejoined them some years later. In 1989, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, along with the five members from the Temptations’ mid-1960s heyday.
Dennis Edwards was born to a preacher in Fairfield, Ala., on Feb. 3, 1943, and grew up in Detroit. As a teenager he sang in a gospel group and studied music at the Detroit Conservatory of Music before signing with Motown in the late 1960s.
After parting ways with the Temptations, Mr. Edwards remained with Motown as a solo artist. In 1984 he had an R&B hit with “Don’t Look Any Further,” a duet with Siedah Garrett, which was later sampled for records featuring rappers like Rakim and Tupac Shakur.
In the 1990s, he toured with a group billed as Dennis Edwards and the Temptations, which led to a legal battle with Otis Williams about the use of the Temptations name. He settled by touring as the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards.
Mr. Edwards’s marriage to Ruth Pointer, one of the Pointer Sisters, ended in divorce. His survivors include his wife, Brenda, with whom he lived in St. Louis; five daughters, Issa Pointer, Maya Peacock, Denise Edwards, Alison Turner and Erika Thomas; a son, Bernard Hubbard; and grandchildren.