The man most of us know by his unmistakable, calming yet disturbed raspy voice was born Davis Eli Ruffin on January 18, 1941, in Whynot, Mississippi. His father, Eli Ruffin, was a Baptist minister. Only months after his birth his mother Ophelia Ruffin died, and his father later remarried, to a schoolteacher. David began singing and touring at a very young age with his father and siblings in a gospel group. Leaving home at 13 to pursue the ministry, it was David’s select showmanship that caught the eyes of some in the secular music industry. He then moved to Detroit, Michigan, and was signed to Anna Records in 1960 and then Check-Mate Records in 1961. David didn’t have hits with either label, but they were good showcases for his vocal ability and talent. In 1964 he joined The Temptations, who had yet to chart a hit, at Motown Records. The “Tempts”‘ hitless status changed in March of 1965 with the classic “My Girl”, on which David sang lead. The song stayed at #1 for eight weeks, and the rest is history. The same showmanship that brought David into the R&B industry caught the attention of fans around the world. His stage performance was dynamic. His dramatic hand gestures and slipping out of chorus to fall to his knees wasn’t all this tall, slender man wearing black-framed glasses could do. His voice proved to be powerful, as he went on to sing lead on Temptations hits that brought joy and happiness in the turbulent times of the 1960s. These times also proved to be turbulent for the group, however. Tensions arose when David asked for billing before the group, a practice common among vocal groups of the time. Not only did David not get his name above the group’s, but he was dismissed from the group in 1968. He was Still under contract at Motown, though, and his solo career got off to a promising start with the ballad “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me”). Subsequent releases failed, however, as did duets with his brother Jimmy Ruffin. Few of the songs charted and he blamed Motown for not properly promoting his music. In 1979 he left the label and went to Warner Brothers, where his career unfortunately went into a complete decline. He later rejoined The Temptations for a reunion tour, but after that he fell obscurity, and his personal life also took a downward spiral when it came to light that he was suffering from substance abuse and depression. He eventually reunited with former Temptations colleague Eddie Kendricks (who was now also a solo artist) in 1986, and they began touring and performing with ‘Artists Against Apartheid’, Live-Aid, and Hall & Oates. In 1989 Otis Williams was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and David and Eddie begin touring with ex-Temptation Dennis Edwards. Weeks after the tour ended, David was dropped off at a Philadelphia hospital and an hour later the man who sang the biographical tune “Statue Of a Fool” from every bit of his heart and soul was pronounced dead. While the official cause of death was ruled a cocaine overdose, his family has come to believe that foul play was involved. When the world lost David Ruffin, it lost a life too short-lived, a heavenly voice, and a whimsical, charismatic man. He had one of the most recognizable voices in music. The joy and sadness in his songs can be felt by all. David’s voice will continue to bridge the generation gap just as it crossed the color lines in the sixties and seventies. Legends are never forgotten and David Ruffin IS a musical LEGEND.
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