Forever known as the singer of the classic hit single “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” Jimmy, older brother of The Temptations’ David, enjoyed more hits and recorded several fine albums during and after his Motown tenure. Enjoying mod cult status in the U.K., Jimmy relocated there in the 1980s, working with Paul Weller and Heaven 17, and for Ian Levine’s Motorcity imprint.
- First Hit: “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”.
- Biggest Hit: “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and was more successful in the U.K. as a re-issue in 1974.
- Top Album: Sings Top Ten, known in the U.K. as The Jimmy Ruffin Way.
- Jimmie Lee Ruffin was born in Collinsville, Mississippi, May 7, 1936. After an early gospel career he joined the Motown roster as a session singer while still working on the Ford Motor assembly line. Ruffin issued singles on the short-lived Miracle label; after military service he returned to Motown as a solo artist on the Soul imprint.
- Visiting Hitsville one afternoon he heard “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” being worked on for the Spinners, but he convinced the writers, William Weatherspoon and James Dean, to let him have it. Enhanced by a mournful arrangement by a third co-writer, Paul Riser, the song became a top ten hit.
- Follow-up hits, though not as popular, include “Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got” and “Don’t You Miss Me a Little Bit Baby,” as well as a cover of “Stand By Me” with his brother David, from their duet album I Am My Brother’s Keeper.
- In the U.K., “Farewell Is A Lonely Sound,” “I’ll Say Forever, My Love” and “It’s Wonderful (To Be Loved By You)” are top ten smashes for Jimmy in just an eight-month span in 1970. That year, a year-end British music poll names him the No. 1 male singer.
- His albums Ruff’n Ready and The Groove Governor make inroads into the Northern Soul scene.
- Following his departure from Motown, Jimmy scores a cult dance hit, “Tell Me What You Want,” that he writes and produces himself for Chess Records in late 1974.
- The Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb produces Ruffin’s 1980 LP, Sunrise, featuring the U.K. top ten hit “Hold On To My Love.”
- Jimmy moves to the U.K. in the 1980s, working with Paul Weller and The Style Council on the benefit for miner’s families single, “Soul Deep,” in 1984, and with Heaven 17 in 1986.
- Ruffin heads back to the U.S. in the 2000s, eventually relocating to Las Vegas to work on a new album while interest continues in his recordings and unreleased Motown tracks. He dies in Las Vegas, on November 17, 2014, at 78 years old.