Jimmy Ruffin proves that hard work pays off. After Motown executive Raynoma Gordy Singleton spotted him at the Ebony Club in Muskegon, Michigan, she encouraged him to audition for Motown. During the audition process, he gained the support of Mary Wells and Marv Johnson, two of the label’s biggest stars. With three Motown powerhouses in Ruffin’s corner, Berry Gordy had no choice but to sign him in 1960. His first release in 1961, “Don’t Feel Sorry For Me,” signaled a bright career ahead. That future was put on pause when he was drafted into the Army. In 1964, he returned to Motown to re-sign and found that the small label had become a dominant force in the music industry.
While trying to regain his footing in the company, Ruffin heard a demo of a ballad dedicated to those who have had their heart broken. Written by William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean, “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” was designated for recording by the Spinners until Jimmy Ruffin told the trio the lyrics spoke to him. Ruffin successfully convinced them to give him the first shot at it. Released in 1966, the single quickly climbed the charts, reaching #7 in the US pop chart, #6 in US R&B charts, and even breaking into the top 10 of UK pop charts. His next release, “I’ve Passed This Way Before” (1966) was a moderate success compared to his first big hit but lead to his debut album Jimmy Ruffin Sings The Top Ten.
Yet, like some Motown artists, Ruffin began to see more success in the United Kingdom, where his music more regularly broke into the charts than in the United States. His next album Ruff’N Ready (1969) reached the top 50 of UK pop charts but barely entered the US top 200. Following the departure of his brother David Ruffin from the Temptations, the pair collaborated on the 1970 album I Am My Brother’s Keeper. It would reach #7 on the US R&B charts, with the standout song being a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Ruffin continued with the company until 1980 when he signed with a London-based label and remained in the UK until 1991.
Jimmy Ruffin performing “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted”
Jimmy Ruffin performing “Since I’ve Lost You”
Upon returning to Motown in 1964, Jimmy Ruffin was asked to join the Temptations after Elbridge Bryant left. He declined and instead suggested his brother David take his place.