David Ruffin

According to Rolling Stone:

“I heard in [his voice] a strength my own voice lacked,” said Marvin Gaye, who added that Ruffin’s work “made me remember that when a lot of women listen to music, they want to feel the power of a real man.”

The songs that reinforce Gaye’s testimony are legion, though chiefly found in the Temptations catalog wherein David Ruffin made an already impressive vocal group legendary. (Check out this entry for more information.) Ruffin’s vocal prowess remained potent after his rocky departure/ejection from the Temps, proving, as I’ve said before, he brought to the group a measure of dynamite they needed to rocket into the higher echelons of pop music. And though his solo career was a shadow of the success he found in the group, Ruffin’s talent steamrolled naysayers and kept the man in the spotlight for at least a little while in the early ’70s.

Ruffin’s first album post-Temptations, My Whole World Ended, was a vocal and conceptual barn burner. Released in May 1969, the album took up the highly pop-inflected R&B that Ruffin’s old group had perfected with hits like “You’re My Everything” and “I Wish It Would Rain”. And so though the Temps had evolved into a more socially conscious psychedelic outfit, Ruffin stuck with the old sound, pushing the boundaries and recording tighter, even more vibrant R&B songs.

One might wonder to what degree Ruffin was right in saying, upon being cast from the Temps for erratic behavior and drug problems, that he was the heart and soul of the Temps’ successes. Any song on My Whole World Ended would have been a great coup for the group, yet Ruffin carries each one on his own superatively. Because of either ego or matter of fact, Ruffin never ceded a single inch of ground to the Temptations, and damn sure never admitted he lost all that much when he had to hoof it alone.

“I’ve Lost Everything I’ve Ever Loved” is hard to single out from the rest of the tracks on the album. They’re all a good deal frantic, a good deal soulful, and absolutely solid. I suppose I’ve singled out this song for its superior danceable sound–propulsive and highly singable–and Ruffin’s uncommonly earnest vocal delivery. Ruffin was always a sincere vocalist, and on this song his voice cuts extra deep.

David Ruffin “I’ve Lost Everything I’ve Ever Loved”