Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: David Ruffin


David Ruffin David Ruffin, Photo courtesy of Genna Sapia-Ruffin

Major Works

Singles

  • "I'm In Love" (Anna, 1961)
  • "Action Speaks Louder Than Words" (Check-Mate, 1961) 
  • "Knock You Out" (Check-Mate, 1962) 
  • "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left)" (Motown, 1969)
  • "I've Lost Everything I've Ever Loved" (Motown, 1969)
  • "I'm So Glad I Fell For You" (Motown, 1969)
  • "Stand By Me, Soul" (Motown, 1970)
  • "When My Love Hand Comes Down" (Soul, 1971)
  • "Don't Stop Loving Me" (Motown, 1971)
  • "You Can Come Right Back To Me" (Motown, 1971)
  • "A Little More Trust" (Motown, 1972)
  • "Blood Donors Needed (Give All You Can)" (Motown, 1973)
  • "Common Man" (Motown, 1973)
  • "Me And Rock 'n' Roll (Are Here To Stay)" (Motown, 1974)
  • "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)" (Motown, 1975)
  • "Walk Away From Love" (Motown, 1975)
  • "Heavy Love" (Motown, 1976)
  • "Everything's Coming Up Love" (Motown, 1976)
  • "On And Off" (Motown, 19760)
  • "Just Let Me Hold You For A Night" (Motown, 1977)
  • "You're My Peace Of Mind" (Motown, 1978) David Ruffin, Hits Volume 2
  • "Break My Heart" (Warner, 1979)
  • "I Get Excited" (Warner, 1979)
  • "Slow Dance" (Warner, 1980)
  • "Still In Love With You" (Warner, 1980)
  • "A Nite At The Apollo Live! The Way You Do The Things You Do/My Girl" (RCA, 1985)
  • "I Couldn't Believe It" (RCA, 1987)
  • "One More For The Lonely Hearts Club" (RCA, 1988)

Albums

  • My Whole World Ended (Motown, 1969)
  • Feelin' Good (Motown, 1969)
  • I Am My Brother's Keeper (Soul, 1970)
  • David Ruffin (Motown, 1973)
  • Me And Rock 'n' Roll Are Here To Stay (Motown, 1974) David Ruffin, The Ultimate Collection
  • Who I Am (Motown, 1975)
  • Everything's Coming Up Love (Motown, 1976)
  • In My Stride (Motown, 1977)
  • At His Best (Motown, 1978) 
  • So Soon We Change (Warner, 1979)
  • Gentleman Ruffin (Warner, 1980)
  • Live At The Apollo With David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick (RCA, 1985)
  • Ruffin and Kendrick (RCA, 1988)
  • At His Best (Motown, 1991) 

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David Ruffin: A Biography
By Ben Aqua (SHS)

David Ruffin, a native of Whynot, Mississippi, made his musical reputation as the lead singer for the pop group The Temptations with such hits during the 1960's as "My Girl," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," and "I Wish It Would Rain."  The Temptations scored major hits in 1967 and 1968 with Ruffin leading the way, propelling him toward a solo career with Motown records throughout most of the 1970's. During the 1980's, Ruffin teamed up with former Temptations Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards. Ruffin and Kendricks performed with Hall & Oates at the renovated Apollo Theatre in Harlem, then at the Live Aid concert for African famine victims and on the anti-apartheid record Sun City. David Ruffin was, and will always remain, a pop music legend.

David Ruffin was born in Whynot, Mississippi, on January 18, 1941. David moved to Detroit in 1959 or 1960 when he was about eighteen or nineteen.  His brother Jimmy and an uncle were already living there.  David and his brother engaged in singing competitions at the Temptation member Otis Williams's  house in the 1960's. Ruffin began his professional career under the direction of producers Harvey Fuqua and Berry Gordy at Anna Records, a Detroit company. Ruffin's first solo release was "I'm In Love/One Of These Days," for the Anna label. He followed this release with two singles on another Detroit-based label, Check-Mate, that were written by noted rhythm and blues composer Billy Davis.

Although Ruffin possessed the ability to remain a solo artist, he ventured into other areas of the music industry. He found an opportunity with Motown's premier male vocal group, the Temptations. The group had not realized any immediate success until their release with the first single Ruffin appeared on, "The Way You Do The Things You Do." The song quickly became a national hit and climbed to number eleven on the charts. Eddie Kendricks sang lead on that Smokey Robinson song, and for the next five years Ruffin and Kendricks would alternate lead vocals for the Temptations. Smokey Robinson's writing and producing as well as the vocals by Kendricks and Ruffin contributed to the group's string of hits. Ruffin's "My Girl" reached number one and remained on the pop charts for the first three months of 1965. The next year Eddie Holland and Norman Whitfield teamed up to create such hits for Ruffin and the Temptations as "(I Know) I'm Losing You," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "I Wish It Would Rain," "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep."

Even with the The TemptationsTemptations's  accomplishments, Ruffin still craved greater recognition. As the group rose in popularity, Ruffin distanced himself from the other members. By 1968, Ruffin unsuccessfully attempted to push the group for the name "David Ruffin and the Temptations";   he even rode in a limousine which some critics reported as being mink-lined.  However, according to his ex-wife Genna Sapia-Ruffin, the car had mats on the floor in back cut from an  old coat.  Various critics have suggested that during this period of soaring popularity, Ruffin became dependent on the drugs that would ultimately lead to his death (Bianco).

In 1968, Ruffin graduated from the Temptations to commence his solo career. His first solo release, "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)," became a top ten pop hit. However, he then experienced  a mild slump and would not have another top ten solo hit until late 1975 with his song "Walk Away From Love." Two follow-up singles, "Heavy Love" and "Everything Is Coming Up Love" then made  the top ten on the rhythm and blues charts but failed to achieve any similar support on the pop charts (Bianco).

Shortly after releasing two solo albums in 1969, Ruffin, along with his brother Jimmy, took on the Ben E. King hit "Stand By Me," one of two singles Motown released from the album I Am My Brother's Keeper in 1970. Motown released one album per year for Ruffin during the 1970's until the singer left the label and created two albums for Warner Brothers. In 1982, Ruffin rejoined the Temptations for their reunion tour and album. After the tour, Ruffin stopped performing and settled down for three years, living on his horse farm in southeastern Michigan.

Another turning point in Ruffin's career came at the end of 1984, when he attended a New Year's Eve show featuring Eddie Kendricks and Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Kendricks invited Ruffin up to the stage to perform, rejuvenating a successful reunion of the two former lead singers of the Temptations. In May of 1985, Daryl Hall and John Oates invited Ruffin and Kendricks to join them at a benefit concert for the United Negro College Fund in Harlem's newly renovated Apollo Theatre benefit--a reunion that spawned a  Live at the Apollo single and album. Later that year, Ruffin and Kendricks appeared in Philadelphia as part of the Live Aid concert. The duo then continued to work on material for Hall & Oates' Empire label, and in 1988, RCA Motown Legeds David Ruffinreleased the album entitled Ruffin and Kendrick.

By 1989, Ruffin, Kendrick, and former Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards were performing together on a regular basis. In June of 1991, the three had just returned to Philadelphia from a month-long tour of England when Ruffin suddenly died from an apparent reaction to an overdose of cocaine. Ruffin's drug use allegedly dates back to the 1960's (Bianco). Ruffin's funeral was held at the Swanson Funeral Home with services at Detroit's New Bethel Baptist Church.

Genna Sapia-Ruffin, Ruffin's ex-wife, has written a book about her life with Ruffin called A Memoir: David Ruffin--My Temptation. According to ex-wife, Genna Sapia-Ruffin, pop star Michael Jackson contributed $7000 to David Ruffin's funeral. Aretha Franklin paid a couple thousand for the printing. The Rhythm and Blues Foundation contributed $2500 for his gravestone, supplied by Simpson Granite.  Numerous celebrities attended including Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Mary Wilson, and Martha Reeves, as well as members of the Temptations, the Four Tops, and the Miracles. During the service, Reverend Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, explained, "In David there is a lesson. We should not clap our hands and mourn, for he is out of trouble now. You are still in it" (Bianco). 

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Timeline

1941--   born in Whynot, Mississippi, son of a Baptist preacher
1960's-- Ruffin  moves to Detroit, where David meets Temptation member Otis Williams
1961--   first solo single, "I'm In Love" (Anna, 1961)
1964--  joins the Temptations, alternating as lead vocalist
1965--  "My Girl" reaches number one on pop charts, remains for three months
1968--  begins solo career
1970--  releases album, I Am My Brother's Keeper, with brother Jimmy
1982--  rejoins the Temptations for reunion tour and album
1984--  reunites with with original Temptation member Eddie Kendricks
1985--  performs at Apollo Theatre benefit
1991--  dies of drug overdose in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

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Related Websites

"Ruffin It on Disc"  is a Motown collection that recalls the heyday of the Temptations and David Ruffin. Excellent article written by Nicky Baxter in 1996.

"The Temptations" --an  article provides information about the Temptations as inductees into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. You may have to do a search if the home page comes up.

The Temptations

RETURN TO TOP OF PAGE

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Bibliography

Bianco, David. "David Ruffin." Contemporary Musicians. December 1991: Vol. 6.

"David Ruffin." The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Vol. I.

"David Ruffin." Mississippi Almanac. 1997-1998 ed.

Sapia-Ruffin, Genna.  E-mail to Nancy Jacobs.  3 Jan 2003.

David Ruffin, Photo courtesy of Genna Sapia-Ruffin

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Last updated in 2009
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