*We are now into the month of May 2011. In Pop culture, the phrase “…the month of May”, has to be on par with Shakespeare’s line in his Julius Caesar play “…the ides of March.”
Smokey Robinson’s legendary songwriting canonized the former in what has to be one of the most recognized Pop songs of all time, “My Girl.” Somewhere on your musical journey; in America or around the world; inevitably you are going to hear that evergreen song by one of Motown’s finest groups, The Temptations, featuring the late great David Ruffin.
Sadly, Ruffin died in 1991. Will today’s radio/media remember and acknowledge that June 1st of this year will mark the 20th anniversary of his death? If you were tuned in; especially living in Detroit during the sixties; you would know the impact Ruffin’s voice made on our culture. In addition to “My Girl”, Ruffin was featured on many other songs including “It’s Growing” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You.”
In his book “Too Be Loved”, Motown founder Berry Gordy said “David Ruffin oozed with artistry and talent.” Gordy also stated after songwriter/producer Norman Whitfield brought him the final version of the hit record “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, “David’s voice came jumping off that record begging like I’d never heard before…” As an acknowledgement of Ruffin’s talent, in the re-release of the book “Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story”, Charles mentioned Ruffin first in a list of favorite singers, stating, “I liked many of the so-called soul singers – David Ruffin with the Temptations…”
Records show that when Brook Benton’s song, “Rainy Night In Georgia” was released in the Winter of 1969; Ruffin recorded an outstanding version of it a few months later in 1970; but it was vaulted. It was not released until almost 40 years later.
Fans will be happy to know that a lot of the previously unreleased songs that Ruffin recorded are now available and may be found on the internet. His older brother Jimmy Ruffin (“What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted”) says he and the Ruffin family hope that David will get the proper recognition he deserves. He says it was “my insistence that got David with The Temptations…there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him”. Radio stations are being asked to mark their calendars and declare a “David Ruffin Day” segment in their programming to honor and celebrate the June 1st anniversary.
As an aside, when Sam Cooke died in December 1964, David Ruffin’s voice came on the national and international scene a month later in January 1965 with “My Girl.” The timbre in his voice (similar to Cooke’s) seemed to say that he picked up the baton where Cooke left off in Pop music. It was perfect timing to help get through what we refer to as those “turbulent sixties”.
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub.). Visit the author at www.editorialbylarry.com. (213) 220-8101