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Temptations Singer David Ruffin Dies Of Apparent Drug Overdose

June 2, 1991 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Temptations singer David Ruffin, whose distinctive baritone was featured on such hits as ″My Girl″ and ″Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,″ died Saturday of an apparent drug overdose, police said. He was 50.

Police Detective Joan Duffy said a limousine pulled up to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania emergency room shortly before 3 a.m.

The driver, whose name is unknown, dropped off Ruffin, saying the singer had overdosed on drugs, Duffy said. Ruffin was pronounced dead at 3:55 a.m.

Esther Edwards, president of Detroit’s Motown Historical Museum and the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, said Ruffin would be missed.

″We all know and love David very much as part of the Temptations,″ said Edwards. ″Of course, David has been gone for a long time from the Temptations.″

Edwards, who was the group’s first manager, said Ruffin was a very important part of the Temptations. ″He was a very dynamic performer - his singing, the dancing,″ she said.

Ruffin had lived in Philadelphia with his girlfriend, Dianne Showers, since 1989. Showers said Ruffin used cocaine.

″He walked in the line of fire,″ Showers said. ″He usually denied that he was doing anything. He was a threat to himself.″

His niece, Gina Ruffin-Moore, recalled Ruffin as an innovative singer and dancer.

″As a kid, I was always impressed by him and I always looked up to him,″ said Ruffin-Moore, news director at WGRR-FM radio in Cincinnati.

″I will always feel he had a great voice and donated a tremendous amount to music during the ’50s and ’60s,″ she said. ″I think he was innovative in a lot of the dance steps and the dress; and the way the Temptations danced and performed was due in a large part to him.″

Davis Eli Ruffin was born Jan. 18, 1941 in Meridian, Miss. Known professionally as David Ruffin, he was an original member of the Temptations.

He joined the group, formerly known as the Primes, in Detroit in the early 1960s, bringing a gospel singing style that blended with the group’s harmonies.

At that time the group, composed of Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Otis Williams and Mel Franklin, was signed to Detroit’s Motown label.

The Temptations had their first No. 1 hit with ″My Girl″ in 1965, followed by ″It’s Growing″ and ″Since I Lost My Baby″ that same year.


Ruffin sang lead vocal on ″My Girl,″ which topped the charts in the United States for a week, sold a million and made the Temptations the first male Motown group to have a No. 1 hit.

In 1966, Ruffin’s brother, Jimmy, made it into the Top Ten with the ballad ″What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,″ recorded on the Soul label. Jimmy Ruffin turned down an invitation in 1963 to sing with the Temptations.

The Temptations became Motown’s most successful male group, notching more than a dozen hit singles and trailing only the Supremes for supremacy on the charts. But Ruffin became unhappy with his status as one of five equal members and broke from the group in the summer of 1968 to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by Dennis Edwards.

His solo career was highlighted by the hit single ″My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me).″ He accompanied the Temptations in a 1982 ″Reunion″ tour and in a 1983 NBC-TV special celebrating Motown’s 25th anniversary.

Ruffin’s career was plagued by drug problems. His first stint in a rehabilitation center came in 1967.

A 1987 cocaine bust, in which he was arrested after police found him with drugs and drug paraphernalia, landed him in jail for repeated parole violations. He was convicted in May 1988 of misdemeanor possession of cocaine.

Ruffin was originally placed on probation, but was ordered into a drug treatment center after violating his probation by testing positive for opiates. When he emerged from a Detroit rehabilitation center in October 1989, he announced, ″I’m clean.″

In 1989, Ruffin was reunited with the whole band when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

He also appeared on the Hall & Oates album, ″A Nite At The Apollo Live 3/8″ He sang in the medley of ″The Way You Do The Things You Do″ and ″My Girl″ with Daryl Hall, John Oates, and fellow ex-Temptations singer Eddie Kendricks.

A spokesman for medical examiner’s office in Philadelphia said an autopsy has been completed, but the cause of death was undetermined pending toxicology reports.

Duffy said police were investigating what kind of drugs may have been involved.