David Ruffin (1941-1991) was an American R&B singer. He was the tenor and lead singer of The Temptations from 1964 to 1968. He is the lead singer of such hit songs as:
- 1964: My Girl
- 1966: I’m Losing You
- 1967: I Wish it Would Rain
- 1968: Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
- 1969: My Whole World Ended
- 1975: Walk Away From Love
He did all of them on the Motown record label and all but the last two with the Temptations.
He had a rough voice and wore glasses with thick, dark rims, which became something of a trademark for him. He used to go with Tammi Terrell, the one who sang so many songs with Marvin Gaye.
He was fired from the Temptations in 1968. His cocaine habit made it hard for him to show up to work on time and he became so full of himself that he would refuse to ride in the bus with the others and wanted the Temptations to be named “David Ruffin and the Temptations”. Not only was he hard to work with, but he also asked uncomfortable questions about where all the money was going. Dennis Edwards took his place.
In the 1970s he sang on his own, but still for Motown since he was under contract to them. He had some hits, but his cocaine habit and the lack of support from Motown made it hard.
He left Motown in 1977 and continued to record and perform right up to the end of his life. In the 1980s he performed again with the Temptations and then separately with Eddie Kendricks, also a one-time singer of the Temptations, and later with both Kendricks and Dennis Edwards.
At Live Aid in 1985 he performed with Eddie Kendricks and two fans named Hall & Oates. Although a hero to Daryl Hall, Hall had little patience for Ruffin’s drug habit.
It was crack cocaine that killed Ruffin in the end, at age 50.
Ruffin was born in Whynot, Mississippi, not far from Meridian. He never knew his mother: she died when he was still a baby. He was the son of a strict Baptist minister, growing up singing gospel music. In 1955 at age 14 he left home and headed for Memphis. There he joined the gospel scene. He knew the Staple Singers and the Womack brothers. Ruffin himself became part of Dixie Nightingales – not to be confused with the much more famous Dixie Hummingbirds.
Two years later he moved on and came to Detroit, where his brother Jimmy was a singer. There Ruffin started singing for a record label owned by a sister of Berry Gordy. It would later become part of Motown.
In 1964 he joined the Temptations: their tenor had just been fired and Ruffin was a good performer on stage, so they hired him.
At first he was meant to be a backing singer with Eddie Kendricks as lead, but then in 1964 Smokey Robinson wrote a song just for his voice: “My Girl”. It was a huge hit and the rest is history.