The Rise & Fall of the Temptations’ Lead Vocalist
It's a close call between two male Motown groups to decide which one was the best...but, as much as I love The Four Tops, I would have to concede the #1 Motown male group was The Temptations.
Leading the helm as far as main vocals were Eddie Kendricks (my favorite) and David Ruffin. David was easy to pick out during a performance, thanks to his wearing eyeglasses.
According to David's bio, he was born in the weirdly-named Whynot, Mississippi in January, 1941. David never knew his mother, as she died during childbirth; so it was up to his father to raise him. His dad was a Baptist minister, and it was David's intentions to become a minister himself. He left home at age 13 and made an attempt at the ministry. However, he had to make a few bucks here and there, so he began singing in talent shows, many of them in Memphis, Tennessee.
David hadn't given up on his religious direction and he soon joined his first gospel group, The Dixie Nightingales. Other gospel groups followed, including the Dixie Hummingbirds, Staple Singers, and Womack Brothers. By the time he hit age 17, Chess Records in Chicago signed him up with no success. From there, on to Detroit where he met Berry Gordy from Motown Records.
However, he wasn't just handed over to the already-formed Temptations; David began recording with another group, The Voice Masters, and released a handful of singles and an album. One of the original Temptations, Al Bryant, wanted to quit and be a milkman, due to the fact that he hated band rehearsals. During an argument, Al hit another group member, Paul Williams, over the head with a bottle, and that was all the others needed to just plain fire him and get him outta there.
In came Al's replacement, David Ruffin, and the success story of The Temptations starts there. He started out simply on backing vocals, as it was felt his voice wasn't strong enough for leads yet; but they decided to give it a try with a song especially written by Smokey Robinson with David in mind: “My Girl”. It became their first #1 single.
After the success of “My Girl”, David was given more leads: “Ain't Too Proud To Beg”, “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”, “I Wish It Would Rain”, “Since I Lost My Baby”, and others. Eddie Kendricks took over the lead vocals on many of their other hits, alternating with Ruffin.
Unfortunately, with all the attention David was getting from the media and female fans, combined with his growing cocaine habit, his behavior was becoming increasingly unpredictable. He started demanding special privileges that the other group members couldn't have. He also wanted to change the name of the group to 'David Ruffin & The Temptations' as other groups (like The Supremes) were doing to feature their lead performers – but that was the last straw. In June 1968, David was fired from The Temptations.
David had some solo success with Motown, dropped out of sight for a few years, and came back in 1975 with another hit, “Walk Away From Love”. A few years go by and David found himself arrested for tax evasion in 1979. He joined the Temptations for a reunion tour in 1983, missed performances, started partying again, and in 1991 ended up in a crack house. It was in that house where he overdosed; he was taken to a hospital, where he passed away at the age of 50.
Below is a photo gallery with photos of David's most famous recordings, some rare ones, and the house he lived in during his Motown years, at 17385 Parkside Street, Detroit. Following the gallery is an awesome video of The Temptations performing “My Girl” in the Motown studio and onstage. Make sure you watch it...it's terrific.
David Ruffin was one of the best.
The Rise and Fall of David Ruffin