Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
B-side  "Baby, I've Got It"
Format  7" single
Length  3:00
Released  June 3, 1966
Genre  Soul
Recorded  Hitsville USA (Studio A); 1966

"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" is a hit single recorded by Jimmy Ruffin and released on Motown Records' Soul label in the summer of 1966. It is a ballad, with lead singer Jimmy Ruffin recalling the pain that befalls the brokenhearted, who had love that's now departed. The song essentially deals with the struggle to overcome sadness while seeking a new relationship after the passing of a loved one.


The tune was written by William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean, and the recording was produced by Weatherspoon and William "Mickey" Stevenson. "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" remains one of the most-revived of Motown's hits.

Composers Weatherspoon and Riser and lyricist Dean had originally written "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" with the intention of having The Spinners, then an act on Motown's V.I.P. label, record the tune. Jimmy Ruffin, older brother of Temptations lead singer David Ruffin, persuaded Dean to let him record the song, as its anguished lyric about a man lost in the misery of heartbreak resonated with the singer.

Ruffin's lead vocal on the recording is augmented by the instrumentation of Motown's in-house studio band, The Funk Brothers, and the joint backing vocals of Motown session singers The Originals and The Andantes. "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, and at number six on the Billboard R&B Singles chart, as well as No. 8 on the UK Chart. 8 years later, the song was reissued (with a B-Side of Ruffin's minor US hit "Don't You Miss Me a Little Bit Baby"), and surpassed its original chart position, reaching No. 4, and thus making it his highest-placed chart single in the UK.

The song originally featured a spoken introduction by Ruffin, similar in style to many of Lou Rawls' performances at the time. The spoken verse was removed from the final mix, hence the unusually long instrumental intro on the released version. The spoken verse is present on the alternate mix from the UK 2003 release Jimmy Ruffin - The Ultimate Motown Collection, and as a new stereo extended mix on the 2005 anthology, The Motown Box:

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.


  • Lead vocals by Jimmy Ruffin
  • Background vocals by the Originals (Freddie Gorman, Walter Gaines, Hank Dixon, C.P. Spencer) and the Andantes (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, Louvain Demps)
  • Instrumentation by the Funk Brothers
  • Covers

  • Diana Ross and The Supremes recorded a version including the spoken introduction in 1966. It appears on their 1969 album Let the Sunshine In.
  • Chris Farlowe recorded a version of the song in 1966 which featured as the opening track on his Immediate Records album The Art of Chris Farlowe.
  • Baby Washington recorded the song with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section in 1970 and released it on a single on the Cotillion label.
  • A 1980 cover by Dave Stewart on synth and vocals by Zombies singer Colin Blunstone on Stiff reached UK No. 13.
  • British singer Boy George on CD version of 1988 album Tense Nervous Headache.
  • A 1991 cover by Paul Young featured in the film Fried Green Tomatoes; this version reached No. 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and became Young's third No. 1 song on the US adult contemporary chart (following "Everytime You Go Away" and "Oh Girl").
  • Two 1996 covers by Robson & Jerome, both a traditional version and one called 'soul version', on a UK No. 1 single.
  • Vonda Shepard recorded a version for her album Heart and Soul: New Songs from Ally McBeal in 1999.
  • Joan Osborne and The Funk Brothers perform the song in the 2002 documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown.
  • Rod Stewart on Soulbook (2009).
  • Martina McBride on Everlasting (2014).
  • Irish boy band, Westlife released a cover in 2000.
  • Australian singer, Jimmy Barnes on Soul Deeper... Songs from the Deep South (2000).
  • Air Supply included a cover of the song on their 2003 compilation album, Forever Love: 36 Greatest Hits.
  • Irish boy band, Boyzone recorded a cover on Dublin to Detroit in 2014.
  • References

    What Becomes of the Brokenhearted Wikipedia