What Becomes of the Brokenhearted – Challenge #197

In 1966, ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’ was written for the Detroit Spinners, but Jimmy Ruffin who was the older brother of Temptations lead singer David Ruffin persuaded the writers (William Henry Weatherspoon, Paul Riser & James Anthony Dean) to let him record it.  At the time they were all hustling for material, so Jimmy walked up to the guy who wrote the lyrics, James Dean, while he was singing the rhythm track alongside the producer William Weatherspoon.  Jimmy was told that the song was intended for The Spinners, but he told them that he thought he could do a better job with the recording.  They let him try and they liked the way he sang it, so about two weeks later they finished recording it and getting the strings put on it.  This song is filled with heartache and misery, as Jimmy Ruffin’s love has departed, he is alone, in pain struggling to overcome sadness and walking in shadows trying to find some light.  He is desperately seeking peace of mind, and hoping and praying for someone to care.  The song was set at a steady, almost funereal tempo, as Jimmy sang about walking “this land of broken dreams” where “Happiness is just an illusion”, this bleak imagery made it a popular song, but the heartfelt brilliance of his vocal cannot be denied.

‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’ is a song that you can get lost in, making you wonder if at some point his heart will heal from the breakup and listening to this tune can sweep you into this world where a relationship has ended along with all of the complicated range of emotions that comes with this for a few minutes and you can feel exactly the way this singer feels.  Jimmy Ruffin recorded the ballad ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ on Motown Records’ Soul label in the summer of 1966.  Ruffin’s lead vocal is augmented by the instrumentation of Motown’s in-house studio band, the Funk Brothers, and the joint backing vocals of Motown session singers the Originals (Freddie Gorman, Walter Gaines, Hank Dixon, C.P. Spencer) and the Andantes (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, Louvain Demps).  ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and at #6 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart, as well as #8 on the UK Chart.  It became the third most popular record of this year according to Billboard and made it the 14th-biggest-selling record in the US in 1966.  Eight years later, the song was reissued (with a B-side of Ruffin’s minor US hit ‘Don’t You Miss Me a Little Bit Baby’), and surpassed its original chart position, reaching #4, and thus making it his highest-placed chart single in the UK.

The Isley Brothers recorded a version entitled ‘Smile’ that is the same exact backing track with different lyrics and phrasing six months before Ruffin did the song, but this became Jimmy’s breakthrough song.  It originally featured a spoken introduction by Ruffin, similar in style to many of Lou Rawls’ performances at the time.  The spoken verse was removed from the final mix, which contributed to the unusually long instrumental intro on the released version.  Jimmy Ruffin was born in Mississippi, and he left his mark on the music industry by recording several hits for Motown Records.  Ruffin also sang ‘I’ve Passed This Way Before’ and ‘Gonna Give Her All the Love I Got’, and in 1980, he had a pop hit with ‘Hold On To My Love’, which was a collaboration with Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.  He recorded an album in 1970 with his sibling David titled I Am My Brother’s Keeper credited as “The Ruffin Brothers” which did make the charts.  Jimmy Ruffin died on November 17, 2014, in Las Vegas, aged 78.

… As I walk this land with broken dreams
I have visions of many things
But happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and confusion
What becomes of the broken-hearted
Who had love that’s now departed?
I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind

… The roots of love grow all around
But for me they come a-tumblin’ down
Every day heartaches grow a little stronger
I can’t stand this pain much longer
I walk in shadows searching for light
Cold and alone, no comfort in sight
Hoping and praying for someone to care
Always moving and goin’ nowhere
What becomes of the broken-hearted
Who had love that’s now departed?
I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
Help me

… I’m searching, though I don’t succeed
But someone look, there’s a growing need
Oh, he is lost, there’s no place for beginning
All that’s left is an unhappy ending
Now, becomes of the broken-hearted
Who had love that’s now departed?
I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind

… I’ll be searching everywhere
Just to find someone to care
I’ll be looking everyday, I know I’m gonna find a way
Nothing’s gonna stop me now
I’ll find a way somehow
And I’ll be searching everywhere
I know I gotta find a way
I’ll be looking


The challenge today is to focus on this song and use it for a short story, a piece of flash fiction, or a poem that you can share with the WordPress writing community.  There is no need to stick with this song, as you could write about another Jimmy Ruffin song, or a Temptations song, or any Motown song.  You could also write about Joan Osborne singing this song accompanied by The Funk Brothers for the 2002 documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown.  You could write a relationship that ended and left you brokenhearted, or how you learned to get over a past lover.  If it takes six to eight weeks to heal a broken leg after it has been cast, you could write about how long you think it will take to heal a broken heart.  You could write about anything that gives you peace of mind. or you could write about giving up on love and never falling in love again.

The whole point of this MM Music challenge is to get you to think, to trigger something so that you can show how creative you are, and everyone is welcome to participate.  This challenge is very loose, so pretty much whatever you come up with will be acceptable.  I try to throw some ideas out there for you and if they seem right, then go with it.  You could write about moving and going nowhere, or not succeeding, being lost and getting an unhappy ending.  If you think that you should try to stay in a relation or move on, might make a good topic for a post.  You could write a post about being diligent, as you keep looking everywhere searching to find a way.  Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie brings you a dose of fetish, good friends and an incomparable muse and next Friday on December 17 Dylan Hughes will be here with her First Line Friday.  I will be back on Friday, December 24 with another MM Music Challenge where we will discuss the song ‘Love Like A Man’.  You can either create a ping back to this post, or place your link in the comments section below.


  1. Reblogged this on A Unique Title For Me and commented:

    Jimmy Ruffin auditioned for The Temptations, but they chose his brother David over him. Many Motown songs deal with heartbreak, but this one really hit home with this poor guy who has recently joined the ranks of the brokenhearted, and he’s not sure what happens next. He knows he can’t take the pain much longer, but in his search, he keeps coming up empty. Jimmy Ruffin feels the pain that comes from being brokenhearted, and he struggles to overcome his sadness so that he can find happiness in the future. Smokey Robinson was involved with the production of this track.


Comments are closed.