On July 22, 1970, former Temptations lead singer David Ruffin moved into a home in Detroit’s University District at 17385 Parkside. Friday afternoon, the City of Detroit named the street after him between McNichols and Seven Mile.
The ceremony for the new “David Ruffin Avenue” was hosted by the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame and was the brainchild of founder LaMont Robinson. It was attended by Ruffin’s children, family, and friends and Motown stars Martha Reeves and Mary Wilson.
“I’ve always been a Temptations fan, so I thought it was the right thing to do and name the street after David Ruffin,” said Robinson. “He moved on the block 50 years ago and he loved it so much. It was fitting to honor one of the greatest singers of R&B music. I’d like to thank Mayor Duggan and the city for honoring my request, because more of our legends need to be honored.”
The home, just a couple of blocks off McNichols is still in good condition and has a new owner. But that did not stop David Ruffin Jr. from visiting it and taking photos of his childhood home. He and his sisters, Nedra Ruffin, Kimberly Ruffin, and Cheryl Ruffin-Robinson, were some of the many Ruffin family members in attendance, celebrating the life of their famous father.
“I lived in this house more than my daddy, because he was traveling all the time,” laughed Ruffin. “I have so many memories on this block and when I was looking through the windows of my former home, I thought about the times my dad and sisters had Christmas here and it’s always good to come back here. I hope one day that I can regain that property on what is now David Ruffin Avenue.”
Born Davis Eli Ruffin in the rural unincorporated community of Whynot, Mississippi, 15 miles from Meridian, Ruffin was the third born son of Elias “Eli” Ruffin, a Baptist minister, and Ophelia Ruffin.
Ruffin’s storied musical career began singing in a traveling gospel group with his family and in the church choir. He moved to Detroit as a teenager to pursue music career, where his brother Jimmy was doing the same. Ruffin first came to prominence as a lead singer for the Temptations in 1964 under Berry Gordy and Motown Records.
During his time with the group, which consisted of Otis and Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Melvin Franklin, Ruffin had much success producing numerous hit singles and albums on both the R&B and Pop charts. Some of the Temptations’ hits during Ruffin’s era from 1964-1968 included “My Girl”, “Since I Lost My Baby”, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”, and “I Wish It Would Rain”, among other hits.
As a solo artist, Ruffin recorded hits such as 1973’s “Common Man” and 1975’s “Walk Away From Love.”
For his hard work, Ruffin was inducted into the Rock & Roll HOF in 1989 as a member of the Temptations and the R&B HOF in 2013 as both a solo artist and Temptation.
Ruffin was eventually foreclosed out of this house on Parkside, his belongings tossed onto the street while he was serving time in prison in Indiana for tax evasion in 1982. He struggled with substance abuse and he died in 1991 in Philadelphia after an adverse reaction to cocaine and other drugs. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.
Ruffin’s designation follows honorary Detroit street titles for figures such as Berry Gordy, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder, marked with blue placards atop the primary street signage. There are also streets named after the Temptations, Supremes, Miracles, Originals, Four Tops, Contours, Aretha Franklin, and Martha Reeves in the Woodbridge Estates.
Ruffin’s musical legacy will be celebrated with a free public gathering at Bert’s Entertainment Complex, 2727 Russell in Eastern Market. Those festivities will start at 6 p.m.