The Temptations in 1965 (l-r: Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, David Ruffin)
Despite his fame as a founding member of the Temptations, Paul Williams was in dire financial straits, due in part to his own failed business investments, and to mismanagement of The Temptations’ earnings.
According to some reports, Paul Williams was in debt as much as $80,000. He also suffered from sickle cell anemia, which caused him considerable pain and exhaustion, and made him unable to perform with the group on many occasions. Williams began to drink heavily, and the other members of the Temptations tried to keep him sober, and tried to get him to seek medical help, which he refused.
In 1971, Williams finally saw a doctor, who told him to stop performing immediately. He was kept on the band’s payroll and acted as their choreographer until 1973.
On 17 August 1973, after an argument with his girlfriend, the 34-year-old Williams was found dead in an alley with a gun by his side. His death was considered a suicide (he had expressed his intentions to kill himself before), but his family thought he might have been murdered due to unexplained factors (e.g. the gun was in his right hand, but he had been shot in the left side of his head; the gun had been fired twice). His death is still officially considered a suicide.