Jimmy Ruffin, the Motown tenor who hit the Top 10 with “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and made a 1980 comeback with the Robin Gibb composition “Hold Onto My Love,” died today in Las Vegas, according to TMZ. He was 78 — three years older than in most published biographies of him.
A onetime gospel singer, Jimmy Ruffin began doing session work for Motown in 1961 before serving in the Army. Returning to civilian life in 1964, he was signed as a solo artist at the same time his younger brother David joined The Temptations. Two years later, he learned of a song William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser and James Dean had given fellow Motown artists The Spinners — and Jimmy convinced Dean that he should record “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” instead. It went Top 10 on both the pop and R&B charts, but he never again enjoyed a hit that big on Motown.
After recording for Polydor and Chess, he signed with Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood‘s RSO label, where Robin Gibb produced his 1980 comeback hit “Hold Onto My Love.” He lived in Britain for much of the 1980s and ’90s, and for a time hosted a radio show.
In recent years, Jimmy had lived in Las Vegas. David Ruffin died of a drug overdose in 1991.