Jimmy Ruffin, a Motown soul singer and older brother of The Temptations’ David Ruffin, has died. Ruffin passed away on Nov. 17. He was 78.
Ruffin, born May 7, 1936 in Collinsville, Miss. sang in church with his brother ahead of their professional singing days. The elder Ruffin brother joined Motown in 1961 mostly as a session singer before embarking on a solo career. After being selected to serve in the Army, Ruffin returned to Motown in 1964. The Temptations needed a replacement singer and considered the elder Ruffin brother, but he changed position and introduced his younger brother to the legendary group.
Ruffin managed to eke out a respectable yet quiet career for Motown’s Soul subsidiary, but hit it big in 1966 with his most popular song, “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” listing at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Other mild hits in the late 1960s soon followed, but Ruffin didn’t manage to snag American audiences. However, he did achieve some fame with British fans and charted on the UK Top Ten listings a number of times.
Ruffin left Motown and recorded for the Polydor and Chess labels with little fanfare. His fortunes would change again in 1980 with the release of his Sunshine album, which was produced by the late Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. The album yielded Ruffin’s last big hit, “Hold On To My Love” and secured his later career as a performer in the United Kingdom. Ruffin moved to Britain in 1984, performing for robust audiences. In 1991 after the tragic death of his younger brother, Ruffin became an anti-drug advocate.
“He was truly underrated because we were also fortunate to have his brother, David, as the lead singer of the Temptations, who got so much acclaim. He was a wonderful human being, quiet and unassuming, who touched many lives with his music, not just here in the states, but overseas as well,” said Motown Records founder Berry Gordy in a statement.
Ruffin was living in the Las Vegas area the time of his death.
Rest Powerfully, Jimmy Ruffin.