David Ruffin

David Ruffin - Walk Away From Love

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What a fantastic voice and a great ability to vocalise Soul, of course we loved him and knew all his recordings with The Temptations the group that he and his brother Jimmy started out in. In the seventies he was a tortured soul and that probably assisted his recordings to have a heart on a sleeve Soul style: This is a truly magnificent recording:


Low notes for David Ruffin –  May 26, 1988

BY DUANE NORIYUKI © Detroit Free Press – Staff Writer.

He reached for notes as he reached for the stars, and in doing so David Ruffin’s voice grabbed hearts and souls.

‘A former member of the Temptations’ is Ruffin’s identity to many people.

Last Thursday, his name was not in the limelight, but in the court records when he was convicted of using crack cocaine. He faces a maximum penalty of a year in jail. He is in a drug treatment clinic now, awaiting sentencing Tuesday.

Ruffin, 47, has lived in a mobile home owned by a friend in rural Green Oak Township near South Lyon. It’s parked behind an unfinished house/horse barn; parked nearby is the skeleton of an old, round Cadillac. Like Ruffin, it has seen better days.

Before joining the Temptations in 1963, he was largely unknown. Since leaving in 1968, he has been largely forgotten.

Ruffin said in court last week the only money he had was what was in his pocket, money left over from a weekend performance in North Carolina. His indigence qualified him for a state-paid attorney.

Where did it all go — the fame, the fortune, the time?

David Ruffin Apearing
David Ruffin at the Norfolk Arena

Ruffin won’t say. He refuses to be interviewed; most of those who know him speak of what Ruffin has, not what he lacks.

Ruffin — still lean, still viewing the world through thick glasses with heavy frames, his hair hinting of gray — has been performing with fellow ex-Temp Eddie Kendricks. An album released last year has sold more than 100,000 copies. But most of the attention paid to Ruffin has shifted from concert halls to courtrooms.

In 1982, he was sentenced to six months in a low-security prison in Terre Haute, Ind., for failing to pay taxes during the mid-1970s. On May 19, 1986, he pleaded no contest to a charge of receiving and concealing stolen property worth less than $100 (a Colt .32-caliber handgun) and was fined $50 plus $100 in court costs. Charges of assault and battery and receiving stolen property worth more than $100 were dropped.

During the most recent trial, Ruffin said he has not had a drug problem since 1967, but he also said he had been in a drug treatment program in November and that within the past week he had used cocaine.

His reason for checking into the treatment center was to patch his life back together and not because of drug addiction, he said. A friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Ruffin looked much younger, much healthier when he returned from treatment.

‘But it was so expensive, he came back after about a month.’

To former Detroit Piston Joe Strawder, talk of Ruffin must start with his heart: ‘Big as Texas,’ says Strawder, who now owns a Detroit bar. ‘I love him. My business has been up and down. When it’s down, he’s always there to help.’

Strawder says he and Ruffin have been friends since the Motown glory years in the early ’60s, when they and others partied into the night, the next day and sometimes the day after that.

Pervis Jackson of the Spinners described Ruffin as ‘a wonderful person who has brought a lot of smiles to faces around the world with his talent.’

But there is another side to Ruffin that has nothing to do with talent and nothing to do with smiles. ‘He’s his own worst enemy,’ says the friend who requested anonymity.

But maybe the enemy was fame, says Strawder. ‘When you’re placed on a pedestal, sometimes it’s hard to deal with it.’

Davis Eli Ruffin started his climb to fame in the early 1960s at 2648 W. Grand Blvd., the heart of Berry Gordy‘s Motown Records known as Hitsville, where young artists were soon to be famous.

A group called the Primes had evolved into the Temptations and met up with Ruffin by the time they recorded their first big hit, ‘The Way You Do the Things You Do,’ in 1964.

Ruffin joined Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Otis Williams in their journey to stardom. It was a quick, explosive trip, perhaps implosive for some. Paul Williams quit the group in 1971 and committed suicide in 1973.

But in the early years, when Ruffin was there, he ‘was the Temptations,’ says veteran Detroit disc jockey Tom Sherman.

‘The Temptations have always had that unique sound,’ says Sherman. ‘What David provided was the element of showmanship. They didn’t have charisma until David joined them. David Ruffin was the show. David Ruffin was the Temptations.’

After ‘The Way You Do the Things You Do,’ the group followed with: ‘I’ll Be in Trouble,’ ‘My Girl,’ ‘Since I Lost My Baby,’ ‘Get Ready,’ ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,’ and a list that continues to grow.

Esther Gordy Edwards, Berry Gordy’s sister, was personal manager for the Temptations as they were getting started. Ruffin had the three things an artist had to have before her brother was interested: an abundance of talent, hunger for success, and character, Edwards says.

You can find talent in a church choir, but to find all three attributes bundled into one artist was more difficult, says Edwards. Ruffin measured up and fit snugly into the Gordy formula.

He owned the stage as soon as he took it. As the Temptations whirled and glided in perfect unison, Ruffin would improvise, dropping to a knee, extending a hand into the audience.

It was another Gordy sister, Gwen Gordy Fuqua, who directed Ruffin to the Motown stable. She was introduced to Ruffin by a man whose name she has forgotten, she says.

‘He was very much a gentleman, yes ma’am and no ma’am, but the thing that really impressed me about David was that he was one of the only artists I’ve seen who rehearsed like he was on stage.’

David Ruffin was always on stage. Nelson George in his book, ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’, described a mink-lined limousine that would whisk Ruffin and singer Tammi Terrell around Detroit. The book stated the two lived together. Terrell, who rose to fame with Marvin Gaye, collapsed on stage in 1967 and died in 1970 of a brain tumor.

Ruffin left the Temptations in 1968, a year after his drug problem, a year after Terrell collapsed on stage. According to Steve Chappele and Reebee Garofalo in their book, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll is Here to Pay,’ Ruffin’s departure was marked by disagreements over money.

‘David Ruffin of the Temptations was fired for asking ‘hard’ questions about financial affairs,’ the book states. ‘According to Ruffin, when the Temps were earning $10,000 a night, the group members were only being paid $500 a week.’

After leaving the group, Ruffin recorded ‘My Whole World Ended’ and ‘Walk Away From Love.’ For whatever reason, Ruffin solo never matched the success he had with the Temptations.

‘David’s always been a tremendous talent,’ says Sherman. ‘He still is, but he has been misguided. He listens to the people on the street instead of the people really trying to help him.’

Sherman says personal problems held Ruffin back from the success his talent deserves. Temptation after the Temptations. He remembers a conversation with Ruffin during the late ’60s.

‘I had a conversation with David in the Toledo area,’ says Sherman. ‘He had left the Temptations, and he was near tears talking about how he had learned his lesson and how he was going to get his life back together. It lasted about a week; then David was back to being David.’

Ruffin took time off from the business before the Temptations’ 1981 reunion tour and his renewed partnership with Kendricks. In a 1985 interview with the Free Press, he explained: ‘Sometimes an artist is lost and needs to find a new direction for himself or his music. I had become one of the walking dead, in a way, but I didn’t lose all hope. I knew I needed time to find a new direction.

‘I decided I wanted to do exactly what I had been doing — to sing and make good music and entertain people and make them happy.’

Ruffin grew up in Meridian, Miss., where his stepmother, Earline Ruffin, 88, still lives. She says she married Ruffin’s father in 1942, a year after David was born.

He would sing in the choir at Mount Salem Methodist Church, talent shows, just about anywhere, she says. His talents earned him a first-place wristwatch on one occasion.

Earline Ruffin said she rarely hears from David.

‘I’ve been praying hard for him to come back to life,’ she says. ‘Tell him to call me if you see him. I just want to talk to him face to face. I want to tell him to look up instead of down. If he would just go right, he would be a famous man some day.’

There was a time when Ruffin had fame, had money and had time. The fame wilted, the money is gone, but maybe tucked away somewhere is a blue-ribbon wristwatch — with life and time still in it.

Born   18th January 18 1941 – Meridian, MS

Died   1st June 1991 – Philadelphia, PA

David Ruffin’s voice was The Temptations – but like so many talented  soul stars, he became something of a prima donna and the group eventually removed him in 1968. This didn’t stop him from jumping up on stage and fronting the show on many occasions. Eventually it stopped and David had a short solo career, before his death in mysterious drug related circumstances.

Probably the greatest lead singers Motown ever had, David did lead vocal on My Girl (1965) Since I Lost My Baby (1965), Beauty is Only Skin Deep (1966), All I Need (1967), and I Wish it Would Rain (1968). His solo career started with My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me), reaching the USA pop and soul Top Ten in early 1969. His last USA Top Ten hit was the magnificent Van McCoy-produced Walk Away From Love, in 1976.

After leaving Motown in 1977, David went to Warner Brothers and later, RCA where he was joined by another ex temptation: Eddie Kendricks.

Unfortunately, He had a history of drug abuse and his death from a drug overdose in 1991 was no surprise but it was the sad end of a great, great talent.

On hearing the news to you it might seem strange but I wished It Would Rain, Rain, Rain, Rain.

David Ruffin 2

David Ruffin hits his low spot

Wikipedia: David Ruffin