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Motown's Jimmy Ruffin Dies; Sang 'What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted'

Singer Jimmy Ruffin, who was born in Mississippi but lent his soulful voice to several hits by Detroit's Motown Records, reportedly died Monday at age 78. Ruffin was the older brother of Temptations singer David Ruffin.

The AP quotes a statement from his daughter Philicia and her family:

"Jimmy Ruffin was a rare type of man who left his mark on the music industry. My family in its entirety is extremely upset over his death. He will truly be missed. We will treasure the many fond and wonderful memories we all have of him."

By far, Jimmy Ruffin's biggest hit was "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," a ballad released in the mid-1960s that has had lasting popularity.

It was a song that he wasn't meant to sing:

"In 1966, 'What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted' became a tune destined for the group the Detroit Spinners," the website Soul Walking notes. "Jimmy persuaded the writers (Weatherspoon, Riser & Dean)" to let him record it.

Ruffin also sang "I've Passed This Way Before" and "Gonna Give Her All the Love I Got" — and in 1980, he had a pop hit with "Hold On To My Love," a collaboration with Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.

"All of his songs were about love, so that spoke to the kind of spirited guy he was, and spiritual too," Philicia Ruffin tells the Detroit Free Press.

Ruffin's music was also popular in England, where he lived and worked for a number of years after leaving Motown. In recent years, the musician was living in Las Vegas.

"He was hospitalized earlier this fall in Las Vegas," Soul Tracks reports, "and his family reported him to be in grave condition in October."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.