What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted (2:53)

Cover of Tamla Motown Gold

From Tamla Motown Gold and 305 other releases

“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” is a hit single recorded by Jimmy Ruffin and released on Motown Records’ Soul label in the summer of 1966 (see 1966 in music). It is a quintessential bittersweet ballad, with lead singer Jimmy Ruffin recalling the pain that befalls the broken hearted, and their struggle to overcome their sadness so that they can find happiness in the future of their lives. In 1996, Robson and Jerome covered the song and topped the UK singles chart with it.

The song was written by William Witherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean, and the recording was produced by Witherspoon and William “Mickey” Stevenson. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” was Jimmy Ruffin’s only Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and remains one of the most-revived of Motown’s hits.

Composers Witherspoon and Riser and lyricist Dean had originally written “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” with the intention of having The Spinners, then an act on Motown’s V.I.P. label, record the tune. Jimmy Ruffin, older brother of Temptations lead singer David Ruffin, persuaded Dean to let him record the song, as its anguished lyric about a man lost in the misery of heartbreak resonated with the singer.

Ruffin’s lead vocal on the recording is augmented by the instrumentation of Motown’s on-house studio band, The Funk Brothers, and the joint backing vocals of Motown session singers The Originals and The Andantes. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, and at number six on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

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