*In the aftermath of Whitney Houston’s death, there is a camp cry that people should focus on and remember her talent, and not harp on her imperfections. The cry was also heard when Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson died. There’s no denying that Houston’s signature song “I Will Always Love You” written by Dolly Parton ranks as one of the best recorded songs ever.
Another song in the same ranks is “My Girl” co-written by Smokey Robinson and recorded by The Temptations. The lead singer on the song whose voice is heard everyday all over the globe is David Ruffin. His amazing voice was just as impactful during his era as Houston’s was in hers. It has been argued that Ruffin should not be singled out because he was part of a multi-lead vocal group, but many take exception in the fact that Ruffin was a rising solo artist (“Action Speaks Louder Than Words” 1962) before joining the group in 1964, and became the principle lead vocalist until his departure in 1968 when he resumed his solo career (Top 10 “My Whole World Ended” 1969, and “Walk Away From Love” 1975). At one point he felt he deserved to have his name out front similarly to Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and Diana Ross & The Supremes, but the group would not have it.
Ruffin’s tenure with The Temptations produced a string of hits including “It’s Growing,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “I’m Losin’ You,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” His voice came on the national scene with “My Girl” just one month after one of his role models, singer Sam Cooke, was killed in December 1964. They had a similar timbre in their voices that represented a world-weary strength to the black community during the height of the civil rights movement.
Family, friends, and fans of Ruffin – who died of an ‘apparent drug overdose’ in 1991 – feel the portrayal of him in the 1998 NBC Mini-series ‘The Temptations’ was imbalanced and inaccurate, and would like to see him shown in a more positive light. Reportedly, that is what TV One has set out to do. In an interview, TV One’s Executive Producer Mark Rowland said, “The David Ruffin story…is told in a manner that’s elegiac and poignant, befitting his tale…We definitely want each show to be true to the spirit of the artist that we’re profiling.” Ruffin’s eldest daughter Cheryl Ruffin says, “I’m holding my breath…I hope they get it right.” The David Ruffin ‘Unsung’ episode airs on TV One Monday March 5th at 10PM EST.
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub) www.amazon.com. Available at Smiley’s Bookstore in Carson CA, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, and Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara CA. Visit the author at www.larrybuford.com. (213) 220-8101