David Ruffin (January 18, 1941 - June 1, 1991) was a highly acclaimed R&B/soul singer and one of Motown's all-time top stars who first became famous during the mid 1960s as the lead singer for The Temptations. Known for his distinctive gritty tenor vocals and emotive delivery as well as his flamboyant onstage presence, he took the lead in such era-defining classics as "My Girl." He then continued on as a solo artist beginning in 1969 with "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)."
Born Davis Eli Ruffin in Whynot, Mississippi (he later had his first name changed to David), he began his music career as a child singing in his family's gospel group along with his siblings that included older brother and future soul sensation, Jimmy Ruffin. He left home in his early teens and went to Memphis, Tennessee, originally intending to join the ministry, where he participated in local talent shows and sang with The Dixie Nightingales and other gospel groups. In 1958, while still in his teens, he landed his first record deal with Vega Records, recording under the name, Little David Bush. During the early 1960s, he recorded several singles for Check Mate and the Motown subsidiary, Anna Records, both solo and with The Voice Masters.
A major career turning point came for Ruffin in late 1963 when he was invited to join The Temptations. First serving as a background vocalist, he took the helm in 1965 with the Smokey Robinson-penned "My Girl," which topped both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts and launched The Temptations to international superstardom. This smash was followed by a long string of hits featuring Ruffin's trademark lead vocals that also included "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" (1966), "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" (1966), "(I Know) I'm Losing You" (1966), and the anguished "I Wish It Would Rain" (1968). As The Temptations' fame continued to soar during the late 1960s, Ruffin's association with the group came to an end in 1968 due to disagreements as well as his increasing cocaine abuse.
Ruffin officially had his first charting solo song in 1962 with the little known "Mr. Bus Driver - Hurry," the B-side of a single he had recorded with Check Mate which became a minor hit on the Record World (Music Vendor) charts. His solo career began in earnest in 1969 with the lovelorn ballad, "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)," a Top 10 hit Pop/Rock hit that was followed later that year by "I've Lost Everything I've Ever Loved" and "I'm So Glad I Fell For You." In 1970, Ruffin paired up with brother Jimmy to record an album titled "I Am My Brother's Keeper" which included their R&B Top 40 cover of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me." Ruffin had another Top 10 Pop/Rock hit 1975 with "Walk Away From Love," which topped the R&B charts and later went gold. His string of hits, which continued through 1985 on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts, also included "Heavy Love" (1976), "Everything's Coming Up Love" (1976), "Break My Heart" (1979), and "A Nite At The Apollo Live! The Way You Do The Things You Do/My Girl" (1985), the latter credited to Daryl Hall & John Oates with David Ruffin & Eddie Kendrick. He later had two additional R&B hits with Eddie Kendrick: "I Couldn't Believe It" (1987) and "One More For The Lonely Hearts Club" (1988).
Ruffin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 along with The Temptations. His other awards and accolades also included being inducted into the R&B Music Hall of Fame in 2013 and being named one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone in 2008.
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- In a 1988 interview with the Washington Post, Motown hit maker Smokey Robinson reveals that he wrote "My Girl" to showcase Ruffin's unique vocals.
- Temptations co-founder Otis Williams remembers David Ruffin in a 2016 interview with freelance writer Malcolm Wyatt.
- David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks discuss their later work with Hall & Oates and other topics in an interview with soulandfunkmusic.com.
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