David Ruffin might be my favorite lead vocals on any group in history. Ahead of Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Mick Jagger…all of them. David Ruffin went lower, higher, darker, and brighter than all of them. Not that I’d kick any of the others out of my band for taking a vocal chance on a song, but if I had to choose one to be the vocal identity of an album, it’d be David Ruffin. I think they might even agree with me on it.
Who is/was David Ruffin?
If you’re reading this, you probably know who David Ruffin is. If not, then Google “The Temptations Lead Singer, 1964-1968.” “My Girl,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg…”
Yeah. That David Ruffin.
Big horn-rimmed glasses, bigger voice. Skinnier than a pine rail. And, oh, how the Temps sounded when he came aboard. Rocket: launched.
He eventually got kicked out of The Temptations at their peak for being an arrogant, addle-minded cokehead at the time
Despite multiple chances for reconciliation and multiple mic-grabs at Temps shows, he wasn’t asked back until they were a legacy act. God-damned shame, too. He got replaced by Dennis Edwards, who had stopped caring whether or not The Contours loved him regardless of whether or not he could dance. According to his Wikipedia page, it was Ruffin who warned Edwards he was going to be drafted into the Temps vacancy.
So shit goes.
But, from there, he had to go solo for awhile. A couple hits, but nothing that touched the stratosphere of the success he had with the Temps.
A short, sweet reunion in 1982-1983
Around the time Motown was having its 25th Anniversary celebration, the Ruffin rejoined The Temptations. It was short-lived as his demons once-again overtook him, causing him to miss shows.
Otherwise, just a few blips on the radar
He got to partner with fellow in-and-out Temp Eddie Kendricks (the falsetto guy) and did a couple gigs with, including the recording of Daryl Hall & John Oates: Live at the Apollo with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks and Live Aid, but even then it’s reported that Ruffin couldn’t shake the shit.
David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, and Dennis Edwards
He also toured a couple times with Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards. A little before the 1983 reunion, and a little afterwards. But, once again, little blips.
And an induction into the 1989 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the Temptations
Then two years later, he was dumped off at a hospital after he overdosed in a crack house in Philadelphia, PA
His demons won. Everyone else lost.
But, oh, how they celebrated him when he passed on.
Here are the Temps singing at David Ruffin’s funeral.
[What] good that came from his addiction and death [if such a thing is possible]
His brother, Jimmy Ruffin of “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” fame, became an anti-drug advocate following David’s death. I still need to find more references of Jimmy’s advocacy because the most I’ve found so far about his work is Rolling Stone adding the word outspoken to this claim in his Obituary.
Here are some web sources.
Even a book or two.
The mother to David Ruffin’s fourth child, Genna Sapia-Ruffin, wrote a couple books on David’ life. It’s hard to sort out what’s what because she took his name after he died (presumably for the sake of their son) but they never married, he was married at the time, and she wasn’t Tammi Terrell – his most publically notable girlfriend. They spent years together, especially after Tammi’s death, but he got married both before and after their time.
I thought I had a complicated dating life before I was married.
David Ruffin Discography (Solo)
If there’s injustice to David Ruffin’s career, it’s in the songs that media and record industries continue to promote as his solo career. “Walk Away from Love,” gets the bulk of attention, and it’s a shame. I can’t even get through its 5+ minutes of overproduced theatrics. There are so many better David Ruffin songs out there. So, so many better ones. Even if most of it sounds like Temptations B-Sides, they’re still like B-Sides from the David Ruffin-Temptations era, that’s an incredible, groundbreaking thing. Those B-Sides were still better than most everyone else’s A-sides.
Here are some notes for me to remember regarding the David Ruffin discography (work in progress).
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