What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

Album: Greatest 64 Motown Hits (1966)
Charted: 4 7
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This was written by Motown writers Jimmy Dean, Paul Riser, and William Witherspoon. They wrote it for The Detroit Spinners, but Ruffin convinced the Motown writers to let him try it, and they liked what they heard. Ruffin is the brother of The Temptations' David Ruffin.
  • Many Motown songs deal with heartbreak, but this one is especially bleak. The poor guy has recently joined the ranks of the brokenhearted, and he's not sure what happens next. He knows he can't take the pain much longer, but keeps coming up empty in his search.
  • Originally, this contained a spoken intro:

    A world filled with love is a wonderful sight
    Being in love is one's heart's delight
    But that look of love isn't on my face
    That enchanted feeling has been replaced


    It was cut out before the song was released, but the version with the intro did appear on a British compilation which also included Ruffin's version of the song in Italian ("Se Decidi Cosi").
  • Smokey Robinson produced this track. He worked on many Motown classics as an artist, writer and producer.
  • Other Motown acts to record this song include Diana Ross and The Supremes, who did a cover of this for their album Let the Sunshine In, and The Contours, who did it at a faster tempo. Both of these versions contains the spoken intro.
  • In the UK, this charted at #10 when it was first released in 1966, but make #4 when it was re-released in 1974.
  • Dave Stewart (not the one from Eurythmics) released a keyboard-driven version of this song in 1980 with Colin Blunstone of The Zombies on vocals. This rendition, which had Amanda Parsons and Jakko on backing vocals, made #13 UK.
  • The British duo Robson & Jerome took this song to #1 in the UK when they released it as a single along with covers of "Saturday Night At The Movies" and "You'll Never Walk Alone."
  • Vonda Shepard recorded this for an episode of the TV series Ally McBeal.
  • The Isley Brothers recorded a version entitled "Smile" that is the same exact backing track with different lyrics and phrasing. It can be found on the Motown Sings Motown Treasures album. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    David - Haverford, PA, for above 2
  • Paul Young recorded this for the 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes. His version went to #1 on the US Adult Contemporary charts and made #22 on the Hot 100 (the only version besides Ruffin's to make this chart).
  • On an episode of the TV series JAG, Col. MacKenzie plays the song on a jukebox in a bar, lamenting her breakup with Mick, the Australian naval officer. Mac, Bud (who was having romantic issues with Harriet) and Lt. Rabb (who just broke up with girl friend) are all sitting at the bar singing along with the song unaware of the others' romantic issues.
  • The theme song from the 1992 Whitney Houston film The Bodyguard was Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," but according to her leading man Kevin Costner speaking at her funeral in February 2012, the first choice was this song, which ended up being used in Fried Green Tomatoes (the Paul Young version). >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England
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Comments: 14

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyJimmy Ruffin passed away on November 17th, 2014 in Las Vegas at the age of 78...
    Exactly forty-eight years earlier on November 17th, 1966 "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" was at #18 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; twenty-seven days earlier on October 23rd, 1966 it peaked at #7 {for 2 weeks} on the Top 100 chart...
    May he R.I.P.
    (See next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 14th 1966, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" by Jimmy Ruffin entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #87; and on October 23rd, 1966 it peaked at #7 {for 2 weeks} and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #6 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    The week it peaked at #7 on the Top 100 his brother David's group, The Temptations, were at #37 with "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" and David Ruffin was the lead singer...
    Between 1966 and 1980 Jimmy Ruffin had seven Top 100 records, with two making the Top 10, his other Top 10 record was "Hold On to My Love", it peaked at #10 {for 2 weeks} on April 27th, 1980...
    Jimmy Lee Ruffin celebrated his 75th birthday three months ago on May 7th, 2014..
  • Kent from Greensburg, PaA Whitney Houston version would have sounded great!
  • D. from Dallas, TxJoan Osbourne did a awesome cover of this in the documentary,"Standing In The Shadows Of Motown." In my opinion,hers was the best performance in the whole show-hands down!!!
  • Tk from Aylesbury, United KingdomDuring an interview Jimmy Ruffin said that his favourite cover of this song was by Dave Stewart with vocals by Colin Blunstone, this was released in the UK in 1981 and reached 13 in the charts. His reason he said for liking it was because they just did it and kept it simple.
  • Howard from Wakefield, United KingdomThe best Motown performance ever! (better than
    'heard it through the grapevine' even!).
  • Trina from New York, Nyoh this song rocks, if you block out the lyrics and just listen to the beat you can just tell that this is a lamenting song, lamenting his lost love, lamenting all the others in his situation. oh this is so good!!
  • John from Nashville, TnJimmy Ruffin had another top 10 hit in 1980 with the Robin Gibb-produced "Hold On to My Love".
  • Kristin from Bessemer, AlGREAT INTRO ON THIS SONG, with the "boom (drum) boom-boom (drum) boom (drum) boom-boom (drum) boom (drum) boom-boom" - sounds great when it was on transistor radio!
  • Ron from Denver, CoP A Young
  • Brad from Cleveland, OhActually, it was The Supremes who orginally recorded the song. Motown was going to release it as a single for them, but Jimmy Ruffin liked the song so much and begged Motown that he record it. Motown like his version better and released it while Motown took The Supremes version and released in 1969 as an album filler for their album "Let The Sunshine In"
  • Henry from Kingston, NyA great Motown song. Another place to get it is on "Motown: Gold" or something like that.
  • Rich from Elkins, WvThis is a classic Motown tune..Great lyrics , soulful vocals, tight production and melody..
    They don't make 'em like this anymore
  • Deana from Indianapolis, InI think Johnny Rivers covered this
see more comments

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