Classics: Jimmy Ruffin – What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted (Tamla Motown)
Love may be the source of life. There’s no guarantee the feeling will last forever though. And whenever it breaks, always comes the interrogration as to what becomes of the brokenhearted. Unsurprisingly, there’s no more a universal formula neither to answer the question.
Besides, what becomes of the brokenhearted depends on so many different parameters at the end. With Jimmy Ruffin (the elder brother of David Ruffin formerly of The Temptations) emotionally remaining the pain that such a situation engenders. But also evoking the struggle to imagine any form of brighter future in such sad circumstances.
Strangely enough, and despite quite an impressive discography, Jimmy Ruffin only scored a Top 10 hit in the Billboard Hot 100. And this with, you’ve guessed it… The mellow and vibrant ‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’. A cut that saw the light during the Summer of 1966.
Paul Riser, James Dean and William Weatherspoon wrote the song. Meanwhile the latter produced it along with William ‘Mickey’ Stevenson. The whole comin’ up with instrumentation courtesy of Motown’s on-house studio band, The Funk Brothers together with label’s session singers The Originals and The Andantes.
A native of Collinsville, MS, Jimmy Ruffin moved to Detroit, MI, with his brother, David, back in 1960. There, they found work as session singers at Motown. He would have to leave though for a while because of his military obligations. But when he left the Army in 1964, he returned to Motown where he got offered to join The Temptations to replace Elbridge Bryant. However, after hearing David, they finally got him to do the job instead. So Jimmy went on to record for Motown’s subsidiary Soul label. Thus enjoying quite little success at the time.
In 1966, he came to hear a song about unrequited love destined to The Spinners. He ended up persuading the writers he should record it himself. And here’s how ‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’ became a major success. But also Jimmy Ruffin’s most famous song at the end.
‘I’ve Passed This Way Before’ and ‘Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got’ happened to do it in the charts too. And so did ‘Don’t You Miss Me a Little Bit Baby’, from his second album. Although not as high in the Billboard Hot 10 though. And standing as Jimmy Ruffin‘s last significant chart appearance Stateside for many years.
As a matter of fact, Jimmy Ruffin most likely encountered difficulties to maintain a real identity. With many of his songs finding extra life and eventually echo with other artists covering them along with time. With Gladys Knight & The Pips covering ‘Everybody Needs Love’. Or Michael Jackson, ‘Maria (You Were The Only One)’.
Jimmy Ruffin ended up leavin’ Motown, deliverin’ two extra albums on Polydor. Then what would be his final effort – ‘Sunrise’ – for RSO back in 1980. Itself with writing and production work courtesy of Derek John Weaver and Robin Gibb. Thus featuring ‘Hold On To My Love’ which brought him back to the Top 10 both Stateside and in Britain.
Ruffin later had a couple of extra recordings on his own, although none of them managed to generate a consistant following. He nevertheless made a bit of noise though while collaborating with other artists. From Paul Weller of The Style Council on the ‘Soul Deep’ benefit single. To Heaven 17 on ‘The Foolish Thing To Do’ with production work courtesy of British Electronic Foundation. And he also came to appear along with Ruby Turner on her rendition of ‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’ back in 1988. This in addition to duetting with Brenda Holloway on the cheesy ‘On The Rebound’ produced by Ian Levine the year after.
Gravely ill, Jimmy Ruffin sadly died on Nov. 17, 2014 in an intensive care unit at a Las Vegas, NV hospital. He was 78.