The Temptations celebrate 59-year career anniversary during annual Apollo Theater Spring Gala

Monday night marked the 14th anniversary of the Apollo Theater’s annual Spring Gala.

The star-studded event, which is billed as the theater’s biggest fundraising event of the year, was hosted by comedian-actress Amanda Seales and featured a celebratory benefit concert with performances from the Temptations, Estelle, Jose James, Liv Warfield, Morris Day and The Time, Black Violin and the cast of Broadway’s “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.”

To kick off this year’s event, Seales expressed her gratitude for serving as the evening’s mistress of ceremonies. 

“We all like to look back at the legends. We all love nostalgia, so tonight let’s revisit the icons of yesterday with the voices of today, filled with the hope of tomorrow,” Seales said during her opening monologue. “And that’s why I’m here. I’m both honored and humbled to celebrate this very special evening. Celebrating a very special family — the world famous Apollo.”

Prior to their meteoric rise in music during the early 1960s, The Temptations sought the world-famous Harlem venue as a rigorous training ground for their trademark stage show.  

“We were baptized in fire here,” founding member, Otis Williams, said during the group’s celebratory speech. “Oh yes, we remembered the days when we would have five to almost six shows a day. I’m so honored and pleased to see so many people come to see what’s happening at the world-famous Apollo. My history has been very illustrious…this stage brings back a whole lot of memories.”

“When I was growing up in Detroit — when I was a shorty doo top — we used to hear about the Apollo when they would say, ‘Man, if you do not come correct at the Apollo, they will let you know.’ And we saw that when we came here,” Williams recalled. “We saw people getting cussed out, boo’d, all kinds of stuff thrown at them. So it was interesting career grooming. I’ll tell you what it did for the Temps, we went back to Detroit and we woodshed. We would not have had ourselves in that kind of dilemma, but here we are 59 years later.”  

Related: Apollo Theater Spring Gala 2019

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Apollo Theater Spring Gala 2019
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Apollo Theater Spring Gala 2019
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Larry Braggs, Terry Weeks, Otis Williams, Ron Tyson, and Willie Green of The Temptations attend the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: (L-R) Kamilah Forbes, Otis Williams, Richard Parsons and Jonelle Procope attend 14th Annual Apollo Theater Spring Gala at The Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Kamilah Forbes, Estelle and Jonelle Procope attend 14th Annual Apollo Theater Spring Gala at The Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Amanda Seales speaks onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Amanda Seales speaks onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Otis Williams (C) accepts an award during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Kevin Sylvester of Black Violin performs onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Richard Parsons and Jonelle Procope speak onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: 14th Kelvin Roston, Jr. attends 14th Annual Apollo Theater Spring Gala at The Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: José James performs onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Martin Taylor of Vista Equity Partners speaks onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Larry Braggs, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, and Willie Green of The Temptations pose backstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: The Apollo Theater Choir performs during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Morris Day performs onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Willie Green and Larry Braggs of The Temptations perform onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Willie Green, Larry Braggs, Terry Weeks, and Ron Tyson of The Temptations perform onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Otis Williams speaks onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Estelle performs onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: (L-R) Estelle, Liv Warfield, and Cheryl Pepsii Riley perform onstage during the 2019 Apollo Theater Spring Gala at the Apollo Theater on June 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage)
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The legendary Motown group’s early Apollo experience would later lead to four Grammy awards, an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and chart-topping hits including "My Girl," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” 

Apollo Theater President & CEO, Jonelle Procope underscored Williams’ fond memories by expressing the importance of celebrating the Apollo’s evolution with the evening’s performance tributes.  

“The Apollo is one of the most legendary and influential cultural forces in America. From its inception, the Apollo supported artistic innovation and launching the careers of performers, like the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Billie Holiday, Bill Withers, I could go on and on," Procope said. “So we honor these performers with tributes by contemporary artists.”

The annual benefit, which raises funds for the theater’s education and community outreach programs, also honored Vista Equity Partners and Robert F. Smith with the Corporate Award for outstanding leadership in innovation, diversity and global community.

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