Photo Credit: Motown Archives
One of the finest singers in the Motown family, David Ruffin provided lead vocals for the greatest hit making period of the Temptations from 1964 to 1968. Ruffin delivered lead vocals on eleven hits from the group over those years. At 6’ 3” Ruffin was a commanding presence on stage bringing passion and a flair for the dramatic to the Temptations.
Ruffin also possessed a powerful ego, and that led to his dismissal from the group. When Motown changed the name of the Supremes to Diana Ross and the Supremes, Ruffin felt he deserved the same top billing. His demand for an accounting of the group’s money added to the friction with Berry Gordy and after missing a concert in order to attend a performance by his current girlfriend he was dismissed. Despite his dismissal, he would show up unannounced at the group’s shows and when it came to one of his hits, he would appear on stage to sing.
Lawsuits followed and finally Ruffin returned to Motown as a solo artist, leading to more frustration for the band.
David Ruffin released his first single in 1970 and in the early years appeared to have a promising future as a solo artist. The highlight came in 1975 with the Van McCoy produced Walk Away from Love. The song reached the Billboard Pop Top 10 and also the top 10 in the UK.
A cocaine addiction limited his solo career and a later reunion with the Temptations. Ruffin and his replacement in the group, Eddie Kendricks joined the band again in 1982 for an album and a reunion tour. It was short lived – both artists were fired. Ruffin had further issues with his addiction and Kendrick suffered from a weakened voice due to heavy smoking.
The duo of Ruffin and Kendrick went on to play together and had a minor hit in conjunction with longtime fans Hall and Oates.
Ruffin died in 1991 from a cocaine overdose. His life was marred by numerous drug related incidents, and domestic abuse issues raised during his two marriages. His death was controversial, with suspicion of foul play due to the large amount of money he reportedly held. His girlfriend dismissed it, saying that when David had plenty of money he “he would be able to do things that he wanted to do,”.