Monday, February 25, 2013

Soulobit: Otis 'Damon' Harris

Otis 'Damon' Harris, who was with the Temptations for four years in the early 70s, has died.

Surprisingly, before Harris had joined the band, he'd been working as a member of a Temptations tribute act, The Young Tempts. Indeed, he was so young that the band were unsure about taking him on - he was born nearly a decade after his co-workers. They did give him a shot, though - and it was at this point he adopted Damon as a name, as there was already an Otis in the group.

He lasted four years, before being fired for making awkward public statements. (In 1975. Twitter didn't invent that.)

In those four years, though, he left a mark - including taking the lead on this sumptuous track:

After he left, he got back with The Young Tempts, renaming themselves Impact. The name was slightly inappropriate, as - after failing to make much of one - Impact split in 1977. Harris continued as a solo artist for a short period before retiring from music and heading back to college.

He did come out of retirement during the 1990s, touring in various forms of Temptations legacy groups.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, Harris set up an initially successful cancer foundation; however the Damon Harris Cancer Foundation appears to have fallen by the wayside. It had its IRS exempt status removed after failing to submit accounts three years running.

However, Harris didn't let up on the campaigning, working hard to raise awareness of prostate cancer. StandUp2Cancer spoke to him about the work:

He was determined to get out the word, especially to African-American men, that the stigma associated with prostate cancer testing and the potential side effects of treatment were not justified. That, yes, having prostate cancer “isn’t the easiest thing in the world,” but it’s a much better option than, say, dying.

Harris’ biggest mission is to take prostate cancer out of the dark, and not just in support groups. He wants to make it as much of an open topic among men of all ages – not just elderly men – as breast cancer is with women. “Look,” he told me, “This is not a matter for a particular age or demographic. It’s a matter for people. Period.”
Otis "Damon" Harris died on Fenruary 18th in Baltimore. He was 62.

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