Born in Collinsville, Mississippi in 1939, Ruffin moved to Detroit in the early 60s and was signed the Motown's Miracle label for a series of unsuccessful recordings. A half decade later, however, he experienced his first chart success, as his plaintive reading of "What Becomes of a Brokenhearted" leaped into the Pop and Soul top 10 and became one of the most revered songs of the Motown catalog. Ruffin followed "Brokenhearted" with two major 1967 hits, "I've Passed This Way Before" and "Gonna Give Her All the Love I Got" (ironically, both of which were also covered by David and the Temptations).
In 1970, with their individual careers flagging, David (by then gone from the Tempts) and Jimmy teamed for I Am My Brother's Keeper, a modestly successful album that included a hit cover of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me." It was Jimmy Ruffin's last notable Motown hit. Ruffin split Motown for a couple of unsuccessful albums on Polydor in the 70s, before emerging in 1980 with an unlikely top 10 hit, "Hold On To My Love" on RSO Records, compliments of writer/producer Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. The resulting album came and went quickly, and Ruffin, by then living in the UK, again went silent until 1986, when he recorded a couple songs with British pop group Heaven 17 that made some chart noise in Europe.
In the 90s Ruffin hosted a radio show in the UK and became an anti-drug advocate following the death of his brother David by overdose.
By Chris Rizik