Revered for his lead vocals for the “Classic Five” Temptations, David Ruffin’s passionate, bluesy baritone cuts through the ether. Fellow Motown artists Martha Reeves and Marvin Gaye held him in high esteem, while Rod Stewart and Daryl Hall were awed by passion and artistry his passion. Ruffin departed from the Tempts in 1968 and embarked on a successful solo career a year later. Our resume concentrates on this era.
- First Hit: “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)”
- Biggest Hit: “Walk Away From Love”
- Top Album: My Whole World Ended
- Career Highlight: After years away from the spotlight, Ruffin and fellow Temptation Eddie Kendricks enjoy a second burst of stardom when they appear as special guests with Hall & Oates at the Apollo Theatre and the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia. In 1989, David is honored by induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his fellow group members
- Born Davis Eli Ruffin in Meridian, Mississippi, January 18, 1941, he is the son of a Baptist minister. He appears in a family gospel group, opening for Mahalia Jackson and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.
- In the mid-1950s, he sings with the Soul Stirrers and meets emerging stars Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Bobby Womack and the Staple Singers.
- Enthused by the new commercial direction of idols Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson, Ruffin moves from gospel to early secular R&B.
- After befriending Berry Gordy, Jr., David helps construct the building that became the HQ for Hitsville U.S.A. and strikes up a friendship with young Marvin Gaye.
- Following a brief solo career on a small label, Ruffin joins the Temptations in 1964, soon becoming their lightning rod lead vocalist on signature songs “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” among others.
- Follow-up Feelin’ Good features the top 20 R&B hit “I’m So Glad I Fell For You,” while a duet album with brother Jimmy, I Am My Brother’s Keeper, delivers the hit single “Stand By Me” and is hailed as a classic in Europe.
- Following a couple of solo singles in 1971 in anticipation of a third solo album, David, Motown shelves the record. It won’t be heard officially until 2004 when Universal Music’s Motown Select imprint issues it, with several bonus tracks, uncovering a remarkable disc that features the Funk Brothers and large doses of contemporary soul and funk from a variety of producers and songwriters.
- The next officially released album is David Ruffin, in 1973, followed by Me ‘N Rock ‘N Roll Are Here To Stay, in which he’s reunited with the Temptations’ longtime producer Norman Whitfield.
- A productive period working with Van McCoy gives us Who I Am (1975), which features the top 10 pop and No. 1 R&B hit “Walk Away From Love”; Everything’s Coming Up Love (1976), featuring the top 10 R&B title track (1976): and Ruffin’s final Motown album, In My Stride.
- After two label changes, David Ruffin’s troubled life comes to an end in 1991. Michael Jackson pays for his funeral expenses in Detroit and a galaxy of Motown stars pay tribute. Martha Reeves’ simple, heartfelt contention that “Nobody could sing like David Ruffin” resonates to this day.