Listen now on:
It’s a little heartbreaking that Jimmy Ruffin will only be remembered by most folks, if at all, as the voice that asked “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted.” On the upside, as is often the case with soul singers of his era, fans in the UK gave him a lot more credit than that and he was able to enjoy a bigger career overseas than we offered him at home. Talk about having love that’s now departed.
A good place to start realizing that Jimmy deserves more than one-hit-wonder status is I Am My Brother’s Keeper, the album of duets he made with brother David — the ex-Temptation who sang lead on “My Girl,” and, as Marvin himself would agree, the best all-around singer Motown ever had. Both brothers were at the absolute peak of their powers when they stepped into Hitsville’s Studio A . . . and both were hungry for a hit. You can hear everything they had to give, including their love for one another, on their sanctified cover of “Stand By Me.”
It all starts simply enough — some folks chillin’ out in the studio, likely nodding their heads to the mellow groove that’s building around them. Then the brothers Ruffin take it to church. First David, then Jimmy. You hear the blood they share in their voices but you also quickly set them apart: Jimmy the crooner. David the shouter. They blend beautifully, pushing each other higher and higher, egged on by an audience converted to true believers. Slow gospel moans become fervent shouts. Soon enough they dispense with the song we all know (perhaps too well) and joyously start testifying their love and support for each other. For these few holy moments, the brothers were right back in the Mississippi church where they first harmonized as children. Now they’re together again. David died in 1991, after a harrowing life that barely crossed the 50-year mark. Jimmy took things easier and lasted considerably longer, enjoying a career that led to collaborations with the Bee Gees and Paul Weller. Now, they will both be missed.
BONUS CUT: While we’re on the topic, you should check out their cover of James Taylor’s “Lo And Behold.” Because they deal with that one, too.
Aw, hell, just get the whole album.