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What Happened To David Ruffin

What Happened To David Ruffin

The Life and Legacy of David Ruffin

David Ruffin, born Davis Eli Ruffin on January 18, 1941, in Whynot, Mississippi, was a pivotal figure in the soul and R&B music scene, particularly famous for his tenure with the Temptations during their “Classic Five” era. His journey from a humble beginning to becoming a celebrated singer is a tale of talent, tumult, and tragedy.

Early Beginnings

Ruffin’s early life was marked by hardship and musical influence. Born into a family deeply rooted in the church, his father, a Baptist minister, and his mother, a homemaker, were both natives of Mississippi. The harsh realities of post-Civil War life in the South shaped his family’s existence. Tragically, Ruffin’s mother passed away shortly after his birth, a loss that would deeply affect him. Despite these challenges, music became a refuge. Ruffin and his siblings sang in a family gospel group, performing at various church events and opening for notable acts like Mahalia Jackson.

His passion for music led him to leave home at the age of 14, seeking to expand his musical horizons. This journey took him through Memphis and Detroit, where he would eventually make his mark. His early career was a mix of gospel and secular performances, setting the stage for his later success in the mainstream music industry.

Rise with The Temptations

Ruffin’s career took a significant turn when he joined the Temptations in 1964. His distinctive, raspy voice became the lead on some of the group’s most iconic tracks, including “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” These songs not only showcased his vocal prowess but also helped to cement the Temptations’ place in music history. Ruffin’s ability to convey deep emotion through his singing made him a standout performer, beloved by fans and respected by peers.

However, his time with the Temptations was also marred by personal challenges. Ruffin’s behavior became increasingly erratic, fueled by his addiction to cocaine. His reluctance to adhere to the group’s dynamic, including missing rehearsals and performances, strained his relationship with other members. In 1968, after a series of disputes over the group’s direction and financial management, Ruffin was dismissed from the Temptations.

Solo Career and Later Years

Following his departure from the Temptations, Ruffin pursued a solo career, which saw initial success with hits like “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” and “Walk Away from Love.” Despite these achievements, his career was inconsistent, hampered by his ongoing drug issues and the changing musical landscape. His later years were a mix of artistic endeavors, including collaborations with former bandmates and other artists, but personal demons continued to shadow his professional achievements.

Ruffin’s personal life was equally tumultuous. He was married twice and had several children. His relationships were often complicated by his fame and personal struggles, particularly his abusive behavior and substance abuse. These issues not only affected his personal relationships but also his professional ones, leading to various legal troubles and stints in rehabilitation.

Untimely Death

David Ruffin’s life came to a tragic end on June 1, 1991, when he died from an accidental overdose of crack cocaine at the age of 50. His death marked a sad close to the life of a man who had brought so much to the music world but had also struggled with many personal demons. Despite his untimely demise, Ruffin’s legacy in music, particularly with the Temptations, remains influential. He is remembered for his unique vocal style and his contributions to the soul and R&B genres.

Legacy and Recognition

Ruffin’s impact on music has been widely recognized. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Temptations, and his voice continues to resonate with old and new generations of music lovers. His life story has been depicted in various media, highlighting both his musical genius and his personal challenges.

David Ruffin’s journey through fame was complex and fraught with challenges. However, his contributions to music continue to be celebrated, and his voice remains a defining sound of an era. His story is a poignant reminder of the human aspects behind the music industry’s glamour, a tale of immense talent, significant challenges, and a legacy that endures beyond personal struggles.


  • What were some of David Ruffin’s most famous songs with the Temptations?
    Some of his most notable songs include “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.”
  • Why did David Ruffin leave the Temptations?
    He was fired due to personal behavior issues, including drug addiction and conflicts over the group’s direction.
  • Did David Ruffin have any children?
    Yes, he had several children from different relationships, including three daughters with his first wife, Sandra Barnes.
  • How did David Ruffin die?
    He died from an accidental overdose of crack cocaine in 1991.
  • Is David Ruffin in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
    Yes, he was inducted posthumously as a member of the Temptations in 1989.

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