Saturday, January 23, 2016
Track of the Week: Jimmy Ruffin "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted"
I'm currently snowed in, in the midst horrible blizzard. I've shoveled three times today, just to keep things from getting totally crazy. Our boiler system is acting weird, so I have to check it every half hour and manually restart it because it keeps cutting out, and the repairman can't get here until tomorrow afternoon.
In the midst of this wretchedness it's good to revisit a favorite song of dejection. Motown churned a lot of hits off of their amazing assembly line back in the mid-1960s, but perhaps none pulls on the heartstrings like Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted." It is the kind of lament full of Weltschmerz that only classic soul and country songs can truly speak to. How many pop songs start with a line like "As I walk this land of broken dreams"?
Jimmy's younger brother David was the more famous Ruffin as a member of the Temptations, but this song was his chance to shine. He gives the morose lyrics a wonderful kind of confidence, as if the brokenhearted listening to this song can think that somehow, even though "happiness is just an illusion," tomorrow can be a better day.
This is an adult song trafficking in adult emotions. I don't mean to be all Old Man Bear here, but modern pop music so rarely touches on these themes, regardless of genre. It's all bragging, partying, or indie rock irony. Now that I'm middle aged, I crave songs about disappointment, dejection, and quiet desperation. In my mind I am always hearing "What's Become Of The Broken Hearted" in an empty dive bar in Michigan, snow coming down on a dark night.