I don’t remember “discovering” David Ruffin. He was just always there. I probably heard him for the first time in utero. As a child, I loved him as the jaunty romantic loverboy that he played in many a Smokey Robinson uptempo Motown hit with the Temptations. As a full-grown woman, I find that the darker, lovelorn side of David speaks to me. The aching ballads like “You’ll Lose a Precious Love” (with the Temptations) and his smoldering solo cover of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes’ “I Miss You” began to resonate with me more as I experienced love and life in profound ways. It’s always an intimate thing, growing with an artist. I can recall just days ago, tearing up as I listened to Gentleman Ruffin sing “Now That You’ve Won Me.” I found myself nodding, identifying with his plea to the one that has won his heart to “keep on kissing me day and night/don’t you ever change/keep on holding me tight, baby/don’t you dare stop acting strange/now that you’ve won me.”
The best of artists provide catharsis. The most compelling artists invite you to live their story. But the greatest ones can have a dialogue long after they have transitioned from corporeal existence. I am listening to David. We are talking riiight now. That is what places David Ruffin into the pantheon of soul. Happy Birthday, D-Ruff.