David Ruffin was a singer in Motown, probably best known for being one of the lead singers of The Temptations from 1964 until 1968 (the 'Classic Five' period), before his career took a major hit as his cocaine-fuelled ego spiralled out of control, finding him kicked out of the group to start a modestly successful solo career - and later, prison.
As the lead singer of The Temptations is where he really made his mark. His voice was undeniably the spark that ignited their rise to stardom. The Temptations have been said to be as influential on Soul as the Beatles were on Pop and Rock, with songs like 'My Girl', 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg', 'Just My Imagination', 'Papa Was a Rollin' Stone' and 'I Wish It Would Rain' helping to define a musical era.
Before The Temptations, many bands were highly improvisational, with very simple coordination and stage direction. These guys popularised a more polished, refined act, with detailed choreography, dance steps and sleek outfits supporting their strong, complex, R&B harmonies. Many groups followed and developed on this approach, most notably The Jackson 5, Parliament, Delfonics and The Chi-Lites. Later, BLACKstreet, Jodeci, Dru Hill and Boyz II Men can also be seen to perform in a similar vein.
Why do I like him?
The raw power of his voice is second to none. He had it all. His gravelly baritone, distinctive raspy mids that belt out like a steam train, complemented by an effortless whistle-like falsetto. On stage he had a natural, unforced charisma which really channelled his vocals, making him a uniquely emotive powerhouse. Few singers convey such feelings, so much so that the Great Marvin Gaye once said "I heard in [his voice] a strength my own voice lacked", and added that Ruffin's work "made me remember that when a lot of women listen to music, they want to feel the power of a real man". Duly noted Marvin.