Damon Harris, who had a short but very fruitful tenure with The Temptations in the early 70’s, died last Monday (February 18) after a fourteen-year fight with prostate cancer. He was 62.
Harris was a huge fan of The Temptations and, in particular, Eddie Kendricks while he was in a Baltimore high school and formed a vocal group called The Young Temps. The group signed with T-Neck Records in 1970 and released a single, I’ve Been Good to You/Too Busy Thinking Bout My Baby, only to have it withdrawn after Motown filed suit over the group’s name. They reissued the disc under the name The Young Vandals and the two sides both charted on the R&B singles, peaking at 41 and 46. A followup, In My Opinion, made it to 35. All of the sides were produced by The Isley Brothers.
After one more single, Harris decided to go to college and the group broke up. Damon’s education ambitions were derailed, though, in April of 1971 when a friend convinced him to audition for The Temptations who had recently replaced Eddie Kendricks with a singer who wasn’t working out.
Harris became a member of the group in the middle of their socially relevant era, singing on such hits as Superstar (Remember Who You Are) (1971/#8 R&B/#18 Pop), Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone (1972/#1 Pop/#5 R&B) and Masterpiece (1973/#1 R&B/#7 Pop).
In 1975, Harris made comments that the group felt would hurt their public image and he was fired. He quickly reformed The Young Vandals and changed their name to Impact, scoring minor hits with Happy Man (Part 1) (1976/#42 R&B/#94 Pop) and Give a Broken Heart a Break (1976/#36 R&B/#102 Pop).
Impact broke up in 1978 and Harris attempted a solo career was found little success. He eventually retired from music to complete the college that he abruptly stopped when The Temptations opportunity came along.
In the 90’s, Harris formed his own version of The Temptations and also toured briefly with David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards.
In 1997, Harris was diagnosed with prostate cancer and, four years later, formed The Damon Harris Cancer Foundation to urge African-American men to be regularly screened for the disease.