... he died on June 1, 1991.
Davis Eli "David" Ruffin was a soul singer and musician most famous for his work as one of the lead singers of the Temptations from 1964 to 1968 - considered the group's "Classic Five" period.
David was the lead singer on such famous songs as "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." Known for his unique raspy and anguished tenor vocals, Ruffin was ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2008.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 for his work with the Temptations.
-----Ruffin was born in the rural community of Whynot, Mississippi, the son of Eli, a Baptist minister, as a young child, Ruffin, along with his three siblings, traveled with their father and their stepmother as a family gospel group opening shows for Mahalia Jackson, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi among others. Ruffin sang in the choir at Mount Salem Methodist Church, talent shows, and wherever else he could. In 1955, at the age of fourteen, he left home under the guardianship of a minister and went to Memphis with the purpose of pursuing the ministry.
During Ruffin's travels as a teenager he met such later popular personalities as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Bobby Womack, The Staple Singers, The Swan Silvertones and the Dixie Hummingbirds.
Seeking a more mainstream audience for his singing, he met and came under the guardianship of Eddie Bush and Dorothy Helen who took David to Detroit, Michigan and introduced him to Gwen Gordy Fuqua, Berry Gordy's sister and Billy Davis. In Detroit, his brother Jimmy Ruffin was already pursuing a career in music while working at the Ford Motor Company.
Strongly inspired by pop and R&B music of the time, in 1958 Ruffin recorded his first released record with the songs "You and I" and "Believe Me," released under the name "Little David Bush." In 1961, Ruffin recorded at Anna Records with The Voice Masters, which included future Motown producer Lamont Dozier and members of the singing group The Originals. Later that year, he moved to Check-Mate Records he recorded the songs "You Can Get What I Got" and "Actions Speak Louder Than Words."
Ruffin eventually met an up-and-coming local group by the name of the Temptations. His older brother Jimmy Ruffin went on a Motortown Revue tour with the Temptations, and he told David that they needed someone to sing tenor. In January 1964, Ruffin became a member of The Temptations after founding member Elbridge "Al" Bryant was fired.
Though both David and his brother Jimmy were considered, David was given an edge because of the skills he displayed when he joined the Temptations on-stage during a local Detroit performance earlier in 1963.
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Ruffin initially sang backgrounds, while the role of lead singer mostly alternated between Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. He did sing a few lead parts both on stage and in the studio during his first year with the group.
Songwriter/Producer Smokey Robinson saw Ruffin during this period as a "sleeping giant" in the group. Robinson wrote "My Girl" specifically for Ruffin. Recorded in November 1964 and released a month later, it became the group's first #1 single and its signature song and elevated Ruffin to the role of lead singer and front man.
The follow-ups to "My Girl" were also extremely successful singles, including "It's Growing," "Since I Lost My Baby," "My Baby," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," "(I Know) I'm Losing You," "All I Need," "(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It's You That I Need," "I Wish It Would Rain," and "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)."
"Ruff" as he was known in the group, also shared lead vocals on the 1967 hit single "You're My Everything" with Eddie Kendricks. The tall, 6'3," Ruffin's passionate and dramatic performances endeared him to the Temptations' audiences and fans.
By 1967, problems with Ruffin erupted. He became addicted to cocaine and began missing rehearsals and performances. He also felt he should become the focal point of the Temptations, just as Diana Ross was for her group and began demanding that the group name be changed to David Ruffin & the Temptations. This led to a number of fights between Ruffin and the group's de facto leader, Otis Williams.
In addition to the group's problems with Ruffin's ego, he began inquiring into the Temptations' financial records, demanding an accounting of the group's money. This caused friction between Ruffin and Gordy.
In mid-1968, the Temptations agreed that Ruffin had finally crossed the line when he missed a 1968 concert, and was replaced with former Contour Dennis Edwards, who had been a friend of Ruffin and the group beforehand.
Despondent that he had been fired from the group, Ruffin began turning up at and crashing Temptations' concerts. The Temptations resorted to hiring extra security to prevent Ruffin from attending their shows.
Meanwhile, Ruffin filed suit against Motown Records, seeking a release from the label and an accounting of his money. Motown counter-sued to keep the singer from leaving the label and eventually the case was settled. The settlement required Ruffin to remain with Motown to finish out his initial contract.
Ruffin's first solo single was a song originally intended for the Temptations, "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)." The album, with the same title as the single, was followed by the album Feelin' Good. A third album was recorded in 1970-71, but was shelved by Motown and wasn't released until 2004. His final Top Ten hit was 1975's "Walk Away From Love," which reached #9 on the pop chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in February 1976.
In 1971, Ruffin recorded an album with his brother Jimmy, for which they did a popular cover of the Ben E. King song, "Stand By Me." While his solo career initially showed promise, Ruffin reportedly went into decline in part because of his cocaine addiction and the lack of support from Motown.
After leaving Motown in 1977, Ruffin recorded for Warner Bros. Records releasing the albums So Soon We Change, and Gentleman Ruffin. He later signed with RCA, accompanied by former Temptations bandmate Eddie Kendricks, who chose to rekindle their friendship when Kendricks himself started experiencing problems with the Temptations.
Still, in 1982, Ruffin joined The Temptations' Reunion tour and recorded the smash hit "Standing on the Top" with Rick James. In 1985, Ruffin started touring with Kendricks as a duo act.
In 1982, Ruffin was sentenced to six months in a low-security prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, for failing to pay taxes during the mid-1970s. Then a 1987 cocaine arrest landed him in jail for repeated parole violations.
After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1989, with the other Temptations, Ruffin, Kendricks and Dennis Edwards began touring and recording as "Ruffin/Kendricks/Edwards: Former Leads of The Temptations."
After a successful month-long tour of England with Kendricks and Edwards, Ruffin collapsed on June 1, 1991 in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania crack house. Although the cause of death was ruled an accidental overdose of cocaine, Ruffin's family and friends suspected foul play, claiming that a money belt containing the proceeds from the tour ($40,000) was missing from his body.