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David Ruffin

Remembered Best As:
American soul singer and musician most famous for his work as one of the lead singers of the Temptations from 1964 to 1968 (or the group's "Classic Five" period as it was later known). He was the lead voice on such famous songs as "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."


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.

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