‘I’ve Passed This Way Before’: Jimmy Ruffin Follows The ‘Brokenhearted’

The soulful song made its debut on Billboard’s Top Selling R&B Singles chart of Christmas Eve, 1966.

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Jimmy Ruffin artwork: UMG
Jimmy Ruffin artwork: UMG

Jimmy Ruffin is worthy of being remembered for far more than just “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted.” Among his many other great recordings at Motown and elsewhere, the follow-up to that famous song, “I’ve Passed This Way Before,” 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 before its soul chart bow, on December 3. The song rose to No.17 pop, but despite its later start on the R&B side, became the bigger hit on that chart, reaching No.10. For all his other fine singles, Jimmy would never make the soul Top 10 again.

I've Passed This Way Before

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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.” The song 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 single made the UK charts in February 1967, reaching No.29. A reissue by Motown there two and a half years later produced a similar outcome, as the track peaked at No.33.

Listen to the Best Motown Songs Ever playlist.


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