Tag Archives: David Riffin

The Great Mr. Ruffin

B6Abw9_CQAABg5qI’ve been blessed to have lived during a time when the music of our culture reached center-stage and changed the world. Of all of the great voices, I’ve heard during my time, I can say none has been more distinctive and profound than that of David Ruffin. I’ll gladly say, I feel blessed to have had my life enhanced by his music.

As we are about to celebrate Black History Month, I want to pay homage to this man whose music was a huge influence on my life, particularly my young life, to which I am grateful. In an interview after Temptation movie, something his son said struck me as profound. He said, “My daddy wanted love, but he got fame.” We know from the many talented artists to leave us of late that there is a line between triumph and tragedy. That line is often thin and frequently ends sadly. David Ruffin walked that line with tragic consequences.

Ruffin will always be remembered as the mightiest of all the Temptations’ lead singers. He was one of “the voices” that made the Temptations, and his legacy will live on in the depths of our souls as long as there is time. We will remember that sexy, gritty voice, those trademark glasses, and that stage charisma that sums up the one and only David Ruffin, and even that little crack in his voice was ok, well it wasn’t ok, but that was David Ruffin. To put his legacy into context; he achieved legendary status after only being with the Temptations for about four years.

His songs were like windows into his soul, exposing his greatest fears as a lover and a man. Even “happy” songs like “My Girl” brought out vulnerability in his voice. His relationship with the Temptations was a stormy one, but the marriage produced defining moments in 1960s soul, and his voice inspired just about every male vocalist – his influence is everlasting. We’ll never know how good he might have been, but we can rejoice in what he left behind.

Born Davis Eli Ruffin, on January 18, 1941, in Whynot, Mississippi. A sickly child inflicted with both rheumatic fever and asthma. His mother died in childbirth, and he was raised by his father, a Baptist Minister. He was a complex man and master vocalist with a gospel-trained voice that would gain him the affection of several generations of listeners, but Ruffin had more than a voice – he had a persona.

In the best of his music, there was a dark, terrible, tragic, and personal beauty. A good example would be in his self-penned composition “Statue of a Fool,” written when he was just 18 years old, in which he sees himself as a “man who lets love slip through his hands.”

My favorite line in that tune was “On his face, a gold tear should be placed to honor every tear he shed. And I think it would show, and everyone would know, concealed inside is a broken heart.” This was a powerful statement that spoke to the depth of his soul. However, as history would record he would share his most private pain in the Temptations’ biggest hits; “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and the chilling “I Wish It Would Rain.

All of these songs were rooted in gospel where David began, singing in The Ruffin Family and The Spiritual Trying Four with his father, his sister Rita Mae and older brothers Jimmy and Quincy. David left home at 13 following his father’s footsteps to practice the ministry but was sidetracked, singing in Memphis talent shows where he met a young Elvis Presley. He later sang with the gospel group; The Dixie Nightingales out of Memphis, Tennessee, and toured with The Womack Brothers, The Swan Silvertones, and The Staple Singers.

It was with these gospel groups that Ruffin would develop his stage personality, dropping to his knees and doing splits just like the late Jackie Wilson before him. David’s show-stopping performances within the group would be enough to get him noticed on the secular side.

Then, in 1964, when problems arose between the Temptations and group member Elbridge Bryant, David would be invited to join the group. Shortly after David’s arrival, the group would record “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” a Smokey Robinson number with Eddie Kendricks on lead. Gone for a three-week gig in Saginaw, Michigan, the group would return home to find themselves with their first hit. It is said, when David saw the chart standings, he sat down on the long chaise lounge in the Motown lobby, took off his glasses, and cried like a baby.

Ruffin would turn out be an electrifying and dynamic force and set a course for stardom with their first universal #1 hit, “My Girl,” recorded just before Christmas in 1964, a tune that would turn the group into a household word and legends. The group began turning out one hit after another, and when David took such up-tempo hits as “(I know), I’m Losing You,” to the stage, he became a magnetic field of charisma. His greatness would then shine, and his permanent mark on the pages of history was sealed.

At his home-going service, Stevie Wonder told the audience: “We’re confronted with a problem that touches everyone of us. We’re confronted with the most devastating slave owner of all times.” Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, who spoke at his funeral told the mournful audience, “In David there is a lesson. We should not clap our hands and mourn, for he is out of trouble now. You are still in it.” It is not my intent to rewrite history or to re-tell a story that we all know. Rather to simply to remind us that he is gone – but not forgotten. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Rest In Peace

FB_IMG_14149397207070508

“Just a Season”

Happy Birthday Luther Vandross

2It is with great pride and pleasure I take in resurrecting the ghost of the greats that enriched my life, and dare I say made the world a better place.  I’ve highlighted and spotlighted many enormous champions of the African American experience, along with many who, regardless of their station, changed the world and made tremendous contributions. This was to also include the monumental musical giants of our time. In fact, I would be remissed if I did not acknowledge the spirits of those artists and entertainers whose presence will live within us for eternity.

I am rarely at a loss for words, but the voice of Luther Ronzoni Vandross was so passionate and powerful that I have no words; other than to say the day Luther Vandross transitioned to the great beyond was a mighty loss. We will never hear a voice of such quality, sweetness, or grace every again. So on this day I want to put you in a mellow mood with these attached videos of the legacy Luther left for use to enjoy. Rest In Peace. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Black Music Month: The Last Great Temptation

OLLIEWOODSONRIP Ali Ollie Woodson was born Ollie Creggett on September 12, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan. He is remembered for his one of a kind soulful gospel rooted voice and as the lead singer of the greatest vocal group of all time; The Temptations.

He was the lead singer on such classic tunes; “Treat Her Like a Lady,” Sail Away, and “Lady Soul. I was blessed to have met and known this gentle soul in the mid 1970s and until a few years before his passing our paths would cross, which was always a pleasure. I can recall telling him that he was known the world over, yet he made me feel as if I was his best friend. It was always like we just spoke yesterday.

Ali was not an original member of the Temptations, which had several lineup changes since it started in the 1960s. But he played an integral part in keeping the Temptations from becoming just a nostalgia act. I would refer to him as the Temptations Temptation. I mean this in the sense that by the early 1980s the Temptations were no longer posting hit after hit as they had in the 1960s and ’70s with songs like “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.”

Enter Ali Woodson! The group had lost original members, and Ali was brought in to replace Dennis Edwards, whose voice had defined the group in the 1970s. He added a distinctive flavor to the group during his tenure that was like a playful stamp on several Temptations’ standards with his tricky punctuation, sassy humor and inventive acrobatics. I say this with great reverence because he could do a David Ruffin better than David Ruffin.

In a review of a concert featuring the Temptations and the Four Tops in 1985, Stephen Holden of The New York Times described Ali as “a charismatic young pop-funk singer with a husky, agile voice that breaks into unexpected falsetto riffs.” Frankly, I have yet to find a singer of any era comparable to the elegance of his sound. If you heard him sing – you loved what he sung!

Ali went on the road at the age of 19 with Bill Pinkney who gave him a job as a musician and then vocalist for the Original Drifters in the early 1970s. He would return to lead The Original Drifters’ gospel song “True Love” in 1996 on the CD “Peace in the Valley” (Malaco). He always referred to Pinkney as his Father in the music business and sang “Walk Around Heaven All Day” at Pinkney’s home-going service in July 2007.

Most don’t know it but when Teddy Pendergrass left Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes it was Ali who got the call. He was called upon throughout his career to be the voice to accompany many of the great artists. But he was most notable for being lead singer of the Temptations from 1984 to 1986, and from 1988 to 1996. He first recorded with The Temptations in 1983 on their “Back to Basics” album, when he was invited to perform lead vocals on the album track, “Stop the World Right Here (I Wanna Get Off),” filling in for an exhausted Dennis Edwards. The following year, he replaced Edwards and officially became a Temptation.

He began his tenure in the group on a high note with a song he co-wrote, co-produced, sang lead, and played keyboards on the 1984 Temptations single “Treat Her Like a Lady”. A song that appeared on his first full album with the group “Truly for you” and was a #2 hit on the U.S. R&B charts. He continued to compose and sing lead on other moderate hits with The Temptations throughout the mid-1980s, up until his first departure from the group in 1987.

However, he would rejoin the group the following year and remained with them up through their 1995 album For Lovers Only. Since leaving the group, Woodson began a solo career and often toured with a Temptations-like revue called Ali Ollie Woodson & the Emperors of Soul and the Temptations Revue featuring Dennis Edwards. His last tour was with none other than the Queen of Soul – Aretha Franklin – and I think that says it all. I have lived long enough to know that it is rare and only once in a lifetime that God gives us an Ali Woodson. I am honored and truly blessed to have known him.

In the Temptations movie David and Eddie would say “we were the voices.” With all due respect, Ali should also be called one of “the voices”. Rest In Peace my friend and that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


%d bloggers like this: