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David Ruffin

Oh, that sexy, gritty voice, those trademark glasses, and that stage charisma, easily sums up the one and only David Ruffin, and even that little crack in his voice was ok, well it wasn't ok, but that was David Ruffin.

His songs were like windows into his soul, exposing his greatest fears as a lover and a man. Even "happy" songs like "My Girl" brought out a vulnerability in his voice. His relationship with the Temptations was a stormy one, but the marriage produced defining moments in 1960's soul, and Ruffin's departure from the group was the story of 1968. The wonderful reaction to "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)" in 1969 suggested a solo star was finally born. But the song was really a metaphor for his personal struggle for a life rich and full of meaning. While there were minor hits later, David was caught between various writers and producers, and except for "Walk Away From Love" in 1975, he never tapped his enormous potential again. We'll never know how good he might have been, yet to singers like Rod Stewart, George Michael, Daryl Hall, and Bruce Springsteen, his influence is everlasting.

And this is his story...

David Ruffin,

Born Davis Eli Ruffin, on January 18, 1941 in Whynot, Mississippi. A sickly child, inflicted with both rheumatic fever and asthma. His mother died in childbirth, and he was raised by his father, a baptist minister. He was a complex man and master vocalist with a gospel trained voice that would gain him the affection of several generations of listeners, but Ruffin had more than a voice - he had a persona. In the best of his music, there was a dark, terrible, tragic, and personal beauty. A good example would be in his self-penned composition "Statue of a Fool", written when he was just 18 years old, in which he sees himself as a "man who lets love slip through his hands." "On his face," he wrote, "a gold tear should be placed to honor every tear he shed. And I think it would show, and everyone would know, concealed inside is a broken heart." Unable to capitalize on his first solo singles for various labels, he would share his most private pain in the Temptationsí biggest hits. Songs like "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and "Since I Lost My Baby", and the chilling "I Wish It Would Rain" were like windows deep into his soul. All these songs were rooted in gospel where David first began, singing in The Ruffin Family and The Spiritual Trying Four with his father, his sister Rita Mae and older brothers Jimmy and Quincy. David left home at 13 following his fatherís footsteps to practice the ministry, but was sidetracked, singing in Memphis talent shows where he met a young Elvis Presley. He later sang with the gospel group The Dixie Nightingales, out of Memphis, Tennessee, and toured with The Womack Brothers, The Swan Silvertones, The Staple Singers, and the Dixie Hummingbirds. It was with these gospel groups that Ruffin would develop his stage personality, dropping to his knees and doing splits, just like the late Jackie Wilson before him, and Davidís showstopping performances within the group would be enough to get him noticed on the secular side.

Following a short stint with Chicagoís Chess Records at the age of 17, David moved to Detroit where he first met the founder of Motown, Berry Gordy. He recorded with The Voice Masters and signed with Anna Records, operated by Berryís sister, Anna Gordy, but nothing was happening for him there. Davidís brother Jimmy, having already arrived in Detroit before him, had signed with Motown, and was struggling as a solo artist. As fate may have it, the Ruffin brothers, who were neighbors with Otis Williams, would often sit in Otisí kitchen and sing.

In 1964, when problems arose between the Temptations and group member Elbridge Bryant, David would be invited to join the group. Shortly after Davidís arrival, the group would record "The Way You Do The Things You Do", a Smokey Robinson number with Eddie Kendricks on lead. Gone for a three-week gig in Saginaw, Michigan, the group would return home to find themselves with their first hit. It is said that when David saw the chart standings, he sat down on the long chaise lounge in the Motown lobby, took off his glasses, and cried like a baby. Ruffin would turn out be an electrifying and dynamic force, when soon after he would bring them their first universal #1 hit, "My Girl", recorded just before Christmas in 1964, a tune that would turn the group into a household word. The group began turning out one hit after another, and when David took such uptempo hits as "(I know), Iím Losing You", to the stage, he became a magnetic field of charisma. With his increasing celebrity, came increasing arrogance. Soon he was opting for star treatment, hotel suites, and his own limousine (with his trademark glasses painted on the side), while the other band members rode in a station wagon. He began partying, showing up late for gigs, or sometimes not showing up at all. He even called a meeting of the group, and road manager Don Foster, to inform them that he wanted the group to be known as David Ruffin and The Temptations, as he considered himself to be the dominant lead. Despite the ego tripping, David was basically not a bad person, (As Dennis said in the StreetGold video- "A sober David Ruffin was a very deep person") but time and bitterness had created a tough outer shell, and David lived inside it. In April of 1968, following another Ruffin-led gem "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" the group, unable to take Ruffinís shenanigans any more, voted David out of the group. In stepped Dennis Edwards, another great soul singer in his own right. Unable at first to accept his departure from the group, Ruffin would jump up on stage during performances, forcing the group to hire extra security to keep him away. Eventually, he was offered a solo deal, and he accepted after losing a lawsuit against Gordy seeking a release from his contract with Motown.

On January 20, 1969, David Ruffin made his solo debut with the now classic "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)", a hit right out of the box. The following "Iíve Lost Everything Iíve Ever Loved", and "Iím so Glad I Fell For You", and the surprisingly bluesy "The Double Cross" didnít fare as well, each charting decreasingly lower than the last. Following a hitless second album, Feeliní Good, and a Ruffin Brothers project with brother Jimmy titled I Am My Brotherís Keeper, Ruffin seemed to disappear from the scene for three years, despite such gems as "I Miss You" and "Common Man" from his self-titled third album. David would continue to struggle on the charts, until the mid seventies.

In the end of 1975 Ruffinís genius would again be found in his anguished performance of "Walk Away From Love", from Who I Am, and the brilliant ballad "Just Let Me Hold You For A Night" from the 1977 In My Stride. Although Ruffinís power would never wane, and his performances maintained an exceedingly high level of excellence, the albums would be "lost". Ruffin contended that Motown, concentrating on higher profile performers like Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye were not promoting his material. In 1979, Ruffin left Motown for Warner Brothers, but there were still no major hits.

In 1982, with no label, and ever declining success, the idea of a reunion tour with The Temptations seemed like a practical move. Along with former group mate Eddie Kendricks and the current Temptations line up of Dennis Edwards, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Richard Street, and Glenn Leonard, seven Temptations would go on tour.

Whatever happiness the reunion brought at the beginning, would come unraveled in Detroit. The riffraff and the drug dealers gravitated toward David, just like the old days and the partying resumed. David missed the first three shows at the Premier Center in Detroit, costing the group thousands of dollars in docked fees, and leaving fans disappointed. Needless to say, the possibility of anything more permanent was not happening, and the group returned to itís pre-reunion line-up.

Unfortunately, not much would happen for David over the next few years, so he would team up with former Temptation and good friend Eddie Kendricks. In 1985, the pair would team up with friends Daryl Hall & John Oates for an album and live performance at The Apollo Theater in New York. The pair would also be involved with the "Live Aid" project and would appear in the Sun City video along with many other artists in the project Artists United Against Apartheid, to benefit political prisoners and their families in South Africa. In 1987, the two would record an album for RCA entitled Ruffin & Kendrick, a fine piece of work, but not as successful as it deserved to be. In the summer of 1987, Ruffin & Kendrick would tour 21 cities as part of a roadshow which included Martha Reeves and the late Mary Wells.

In 1989, David Ruffin was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, along with five other Temptations, including Eddie Kendricks, Dennis Edwards, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin and the late Paul Williams. Following the ceremony, David and Eddie would get together with Dennis Edwards, who the Temptations had replaced with Ali "Ollie" Woodson. The three would record an album called Get it While Itís Hot, but the album, scheduled for release in late October of 1989, apparently never was. The trio consistently toured and performed live, but the prize of 1991 was the production of a soul satisfying video by Street Gold Entertainment and the original leads of the Temptations with special tribute to Eddie Kendrick & David Ruffin.

On June 1, 1991, during the making of the video, David Ruffin, at age 50 years, would die a tragic, sad and lonely death in a Philadelphia crack house.

The line between triumph and tragedy is thin, and sad. David Ruffin walked that line with tragic consequences. Ruffin will always be remembered as the mightiest of the Temptationsí lead singers. He was one of "the voices" that made the Temptations and his legacy will live on in the depths of our souls.

Tall and rangy,(6'3) with his trademark, black rimmed glasses, Ruffin was a loner who died of a drug overdose in 1991. "He never was at ease" brother Jimmy Ruffin says. Yet to singers like Rod Stewart, George Michael, Daryl Hall, and Bruce Springsteen, his influence is everlasting. We'll never know how good he might have been, but we can rejoice in what he left behind.

David's final resting place


Photo's (photo's courtesy of 'LuvNRuffin')

Wish It Would Rain

Sunshine, blue skies, please go away
My girl has found another and gone away
With her with went future, my life is filled with gloom So day after day, I stay locked up in my room
I know to you it might sound strange
But I wish it would rain
(Oh how I wish that it would rain)

'Cause so badly I wanna go outside (such a lovely day)
But everyone knows that a man ain't supposed to cry
I gotta cry 'cause cryin' eases the pain, oh yeah
People, this hurt I feel inside words can never explain I just wish it would rain
(Oh how I wish that it would rain)
Rain, rain, rain
(Oh how I wish that it would rain)


Day in, day out, my tear-stained face is pressed against
the window pane
I search the skies desperately for rain
'Cause raindrops will hide my teardrops
And no one will ever know
That I'm cryin', cryin' when I go outside
To the world outside, my tears I refuse to explain
Oh, I wish it would rain
(Oh how I wish that it would rain)

Let it rain, let it rain
I need rain to disguise the tears in my eyes...