TMZ reports that Jimmy Ruffin, the soul singer who was a Motown staple during that label’s halcyon era, has died at home in Las Vegas. No cause of death has been reported. Ruffin was 78.
Ruffin, who was born in Mississippi, began singing in Motown session in 1961, but his singing career was drafted into the Army. After Ruffin returned to Detroit in 1964, he almost joined the Temptations as the group’s lead singer, but the spot was instead given to his younger brother, the legendary and troubled David. Jimmy instead joined the label as a solo artist, and he recorded his biggest hit, a cover of the Spinners’ “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” in 1966.
Ruffin had a few more minor hits for Motown, and in the ’70s, he moved on from the label, recording instead for Polydor and Chess. The Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb produced his 1980 album Sunrise, which yielded the hit single “Hold On To My Love.” Ruffin lived in England throughout the 1980s, and he recorded with people like Paul Weller and Heaven 17. He released his final album I Am My Brother’s Keeper in 2010. Below, watch Ruffin sing “What Becomes Of the Brokenhearted” on British TV in the mid-’70s.