Singer Jimmy Ruffin, who had hits with “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and “Hold On (To My Love),” died Monday in a Las Vegas hospital, according to The Associated Press. He was 78. No details were immediately available about the cause of death.
The singer’s children, Philicia Ruffin and Jimmy Lee Ruffin, Jr., reported his death. “Jimmy Ruffin was a rare type of man who left his mark on the music industry,” they said in a statement. “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.”
“Jimmy Ruffin was a phenomenal singer,” Motown Records founder Berry Gordy said in a statement. “He was truly underrated because we were also fortunate to have his brother, David, as the lead singer of the Temptations, who got so much acclaim. Jimmy, as a solo artist, had ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,’ one of the greatest songs put out by Motown and also one of my personal favorites.
“He was a wonderful human being, quiet and unassuming, who touched many lives with his music, not just here in the states, but overseas, as well. Jimmy Ruffin will always be a part of the Motown legacy, and I extend my sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans.”
Ruffin, who was the older brother of late Temptations lead singer David Ruffin, was born in Collinsville, Mississippi in 1936. He signed with Motown and released the Top 10 hit “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” in 1966. Through the rest of the decade, he had hits with “I’ve Passed This Way Before,” “Gonna Give Her All the Love I’ve Got,” “Don’t You Miss Me A Little Bit Baby” and “I’ll Say Forever My Love.” He earned his final Hot 100 hit for a decade, “Maria (You Were the Only One),” in 1970. That same year, he collaborated with David as the Ruffin Brothers on I Am My Brother’s Keeper, which featured their renditions of “Stand by Me” and “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother.”
Jimmy would go on to experience a comeback in 1980 when “Hold On (To My Love)” bowed at Number 10 on the Hot 100. The Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb had co-written the tune with songwriter and keyboardist Blue Weaver, both of whom co-produced the singer’s final record, Sunrise. That album contained three songs written by the Bee Gees and one, “Where Do I Go,” that Andy Gibb co-wrote.
According to the AP, Ruffin lived in England for several years. In 1984, he collaborated with Paul Weller’s post-Jam band the Style Council for the song “Soul Deep,” a benefit single meant to raise money for striking U.K. coal miners. Later that decade, he would record with the British pop group Heaven 17, and in the Nineties, the singer hosted a radio show in the U.K. After his brother, David, died of an overdose, he became an outspoken anti-drug advocate. In 1998, actor Lanman Rucker portrayed Jimmy in the NBC miniseries The Temptations.
According to SoulTracks, Ruffin was reportedly writing new music in 2011 and 2012 after having relocated to Las Vegas.