DECATUR — Glenn Leonard has been singing the songs of The Temptations for over 30 years, but the same passion still burns in him to spread the music far and wide.
As the lead singer of the famed Motown group from 1975-1983, he was part of one of America’s most popular vocal groups, and he’s never stopped since. The vocalist doubts he ever will.
“The passion to do this is something you have to be born with, it’s the gift you get from God,” said Leonard, who will perform his “Hitsville Live” show on Thursday at Decatur’s Lincoln Square Theatre. “Everyone likes a song when it’s hot, but the passion is what makes you stick with the music you love as the years go by.”
Leonard’s “Hitsville Live” show takes advantage of a large, 12-piece band to simulate a wide variety of Motown-era acts, from vocal groups like the Temptations to its “sister group” The Supremes. Also covered are works from artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson and The Four Tops. The common descriptor in Leonard’s mind is “timeless.”
“The majority of these band members are youngsters who grew up loving that music, which shows how it has stayed around and stood the test of time,” he said. “This music transcends generations. Every so often, groups just come along that take things to another level and people can’t get enough of it, even when it’s years and years later.”
“Hitsville Live” taps into this love with its revue-style show. Leonard and his bandmates choose to perform their songs as close to the originals as they can, aiming for a nostalgic experience comparable to seeing a classic Motown band in its prime.
“We’re going to perform these songs the way people know they should be done,” Leonard said. “For me, it’s always an amazing feeling; you get a sense of almost traveling through time. You wonder what year it is, sometimes. Diehard Motown fans are incredibly dedicated to this music.”
In recent years, Leonard’s appreciation for music and its positive effects has also been bolstered by developments in his personal spiritual life. He became ordained as a minister in the 1990s and has spent much time preaching, both as a musician and a clergyman. He personally attributes the influence of God in helping bring together African American artists at labels like the Motown Record Corporation in the 1960s, saying they gave young musicians like him the role models they had been looking for. And as an artist still performing today, Leonard believes he’s continuing to do God’s work.
“I always wanted to be a performer, not to be on stage but for the artistry of it and a chance to spread a message,” he said. “As a minister, you carry a message as well. I believe I’m always spreading a message of love, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.”