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Temptations singer David Ruffin, 50

Published Oct. 13, 2005

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 University of Pennsylvania Hospital emergency room shortly before 3 a.m.

The driver, whose name is not known, dropped off Mr. Ruffin, saying the singer had overdosed on drugs, Duffy said. Mr. Ruffin was pronounced dead at 3:55 a.m.

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

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

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 Mr. Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Otis Williams and Mel Franklin, was signed to Detroit's Motown label.

The Temptations had their first chart hit with My Girl in 1965, followed by It's Growing and Since I Lost My Baby that same year and Get Ready in 1966.

The Temptations were Motown's most successful male group, notching more than 10 hit singles and trailing only the Supremes on the charts.

But Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.

Mr. Ruffin originally was 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, Mr. 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! He is listed as a singer in the medley The Way You Do the Things You Do-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.