Motown legend Jimmy Ruffin, whose 1980 smash Hold On To My Love helped usher out an era of gay nightlife, has died at the age of 78. Via the Detroit Free Press:
Ruffin, whose poignant “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” is regarded by many as one of Motown’s greatest works, died Monday afternoon in a Las Vegas hospital. A Mississippi native and the older brother of the late Temptations singer David Ruffin, Jimmy Ruffin did backup work with Motown in the early ’60s before being drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany. Upon returning to Motown in 1964, he cut material with little success before striking it big in 1966 with “Brokenhearted,” which took him to No. 7 on Billboard’s pop chart. The two brothers collaborated on the 1970 album “I Am My Brother’s Keeper,” and while Jimmy Ruffin ultimately notched eight solo songs on Billboard’s R&B chart, his biggest success came in England, where he lived for a stretch and continued to perform frequently in later years.
Hold On To My Love, which reached #10 on the pop chart, was the final song played at the 1988 closing party of New York City’s legendary Saint, perhaps the most storied gay nightclub of all time. The track had become a beloved Saint staple, largely due to the extended remix created by Saint DJ Robbie Leslie, who in that pre-computer era took Ruffin’s 45rpm single and used “a reel/reel tape deck, a few razor blades, and editing tape” to create the eight-minute version of the song that continues to be a highlight of disco classics events. Shortly after the Saint shuttered its doors that day, an anonymous graffiti artist painted the song’s title and Ruffin’s name above the club’s main entrance in what Leslie calls an “evocative tribute.” You can read more about how Leslie created his version here. Hold On To My Love was written and produced by Robin Gibb.