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updated 11/16/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/16/1998 01:00AM

>Otis Williams

Almost 40 years, 19 members and 56 albums after he founded the Temptations, the classic R&B group that scored with hits like "My Girl," Otis Williams, 57, is still at the helm. Unlike many golden oldie groups that tour but don't record, the Tempts are out there with a new Motown album and a hit single, "Stay."

Why did you call the CD Phoenix Rising?

It was symbolic of what the Temptations have been through. Even after losing strong personalities like Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin, we've been able to rise from the ashes to soar again.

What are the biggest changes that you've seen in touring and recording?

When we started out in the '60s, we had to deal with racial [tension]. It's still around, but it's not as prevalent as far as people coming together to see us live. Recording has become much more technical. When we go in to record it's like walking into a space module command center.

Did you ever expect to be the last surviving original member?

It's strange. People say to me, "God let you live for a reason." Work still must be done—continuing the Temptations—so there's a reason I'm still around.

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