Near the end of the year in which we lost Jimmy Ruffin, let’s remember one of his many great Motown recordings, as it reaches an anniversary. ‘I’ve Passed This Way Before,’ the follow-up to his most famous song, ‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,’ made its debut on Billboard’s Top Selling R&B Singles chart of Christmas Eve, 1966.
As a measure of how pop radio and audiences had loved ‘Brokenhearted,’ Ruffin’s sequel made its debut on the pop Hot 100 fully three weeks earlier, on December 3. It rose to No. 17 pop, but despite its later start on the soul side, became the bigger hit on that chart, reaching No. 10. For all his other fine singles, Jimmy would never make the soul top ten again.
Motown dominated that Christmas R&B chart, on which the Temptations climbed to No. 1 with ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You,’ replacing the Supremes’ ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ at the top. With singles by the Miracles at No. 4 ‘(Come ‘Round Here) I’m The One You Need,’ Stevie Wonder at No. 6 (‘A Place In The Sun’) and Martha & the Vandellas at No. 7 (‘I’m Ready For Love’), Motown had five of America’s top seven soul sides of the week. Another of the new entries on that same chart was the Four Tops’ ‘Standing In The Shadows Of Love.’ Golden days indeed.
Like its predecessor, ‘I’ve Passed This Way Before’ cast Ruffin as the lonely loser in love, although it was rather inaccurately described by Billboard as a “rocking blues belter.” It was written by James Dean and William Weatherspoon, both of whom had served in the military with Jimmy. The recording of the song, which started in September 1966, extended over no fewer than eight sessions.
The song made the UK charts in February ’67, reaching No. 29. Reissued by Motown there two and a half years later, it produced a similar outcome, as the track peaked at No. 33.
Listen to ‘I’ve Passed This Way Before’ on the Jimmy Ruffin album ‘Greatest Motown Hits’ on Spotify
Download the album from Google Play or iTunes, or buy it on Amazon
Explore our dedicated Jimmy Ruffin Artist Page