Singer of Motown classic ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ dies at 78
LAS VEGAS (CNN) — Jimmy Ruffin, silky-voiced singer of the Motown classic “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” died Monday in Las Vegas. He was 78.
The Mississippi-born Ruffin had a performing career that spanned 50 years, from the 1960s heyday of Motown Records to the digital music era. He was an older brother of David Ruffin, a lead singer of the Temptations, who died in 1991.
His death was confirmed by his children, Philicia Ruffin and Jimmy Lee Ruffin Jr., in a statement Wednesday. The family did not offer a cause of death.
“Jimmy Ruffin was a phenomenal singer,” said Motown founder Berry Gordy in a statement issued by the Universal Music Group, which now owns the famous Detroit-born label. Gordy described “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” as “one of the greatest songs put out by Motown and also one of my personal favorites.”
“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” about a lonely guy reeling from a lost love, was intended for the Spinners until Ruffin talked its writers into letting him record it on his own. Its tone of mournful yearning struck a chord, and the song became a Top 10 hit in the United States and in Britain in 1966.
It begins: “As I walk this land of broken dreams, I have visions of many things/But happiness is just an illusion/Filled with sadness and confusion/What becomes of the brokenhearted/Who have love that’s now departed/I know I’ve got to find/Some kind of peace of mind/Maybe.”
Ruffin had a handful of lesser hits in the late ’60s, including “I’ve Passed This Way Before” and “Gonna Give Her All the Love I’ve Got.”
He later left the Motown label, had several hits in England, and scored a comeback in 1980 with the disco-inflected “Hold on to My Love,” produced by Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.
“He (Ruffin) was a wonderful human being, quiet and unassuming, who touched many lives with his music, not just here in the States, but overseas, as well,” Gordy added. “Jimmy Ruffin will always be a part of the Motown legacy, and I extend my sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans.”
Ruffin’s family described themselves as “extremely upset” over his death.
“He will truly be missed,” Philicia Ruffin said. “We will treasure the many fond and wonderful memories we all have of him. We appreciate all of the love and prayers from our family, friends, his colleagues and his adoring fans.”