What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

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"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted"
Cover of the single released in the Netherlands
Single by Jimmy Ruffin
from the album Jimmy Ruffin Sings Top Ten
B-side"Baby, I've Got It"
ReleasedJune 3, 1966
RecordedFebruary 1966
StudioHitsville USA (Studio A)
S 35022
Jimmy Ruffin singles chronology
"As Long As There Is L-O-V-E"
"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted"
"I've Passed This Way Before"

"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 broken-hearted who had love that's now departed. The song essentially deals with the struggle to overcome sadness while seeking a new relationship after a breakup.

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 it. Jimmy Ruffin, older brother of Temptations lead singer David Ruffin, persuaded Dean to let him do the tune, as its anguished lyric about a man lost in the misery of heartbreak resonated with the singer.

Ruffin's lead vocal 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 No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and at No. 6 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart, as well as No. 8 on the UK Chart. Eight 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 alternative 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.



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[5] Silver 200,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


Licensed uses[edit]

Film and television[edit]

In 1990, the song was used in The Wonder Years Season 3 Episode "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" where Kevin Arnold picks up a Valentine's Day card meant for Winnie Cooper realizing he has genuine feelings for her.

In 2009, the song was used during the closing credits of the French film "La Famille Wolberg".

In 2019 HBO's "Big Little Lies", used the song in the first episode of the second season.[7]

In 2019 Apple TV+’s For All Mankind, used the song during the first episode of the first season.[8]

Paul Young version[edit]

"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted"
US retail cassette single; the US CD release was promo-only
Single by Paul Young
from the album Fried Green Tomatoes Soundtrack
B-side"Ghost Train (Main Title)"
ReleasedJanuary 1992 (1992-01)
GenrePop, blue-eyed soul
Songwriter(s)William Weatherspoon
Paul Riser
James Dean
Paul Young singles chronology
"Oh Girl"
"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted"
"Now I Know What Made Otis Blue"

A 1991 cover by Paul Young was featured in the film Fried Green Tomatoes. During the winter of 1992, his version reached No. 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 Cash Box,[9] becoming Young's third No. 1 song on the US adult contemporary chart (following "Everytime You Go Away" and "Oh Girl").[10] It was a bigger hit in Canada, reaching No. 6 pop[11] and No. 1 Adult Contemporary.[12]

Chart history[edit]

Other covers[edit]

Ruffin also recorded an Italian version of the song, titled Se decidi così (If you decide so).[17]

A 1980 rendition by Dave Stewart on synth and vocals by Zombies singer Colin Blunstone on Stiff. It reached No. 13 in the UK.[citation needed] A 1996 cover version by Robson & Jerome spent two weeks at number-one in the UK Singles Chart.[18]

Westlife also covered the song. It was released as the B-side of the single "What Makes a Man" in December 2000.

Joan Osborne recorded the song with the Funk Brothers for the soundtrack of the 2002 film Standing in the Shadows of the Motown. The track also appeared on Osborne's 2007 album Breakfast in Bed.[19]

Bruce Springsteen recorded the song for his 2022 album, Only the Strong Survive.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Tsort. "Songs from the Year 1966". tsort.info. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  2. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – What Becomes of the Brokenhearted". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  3. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1966/Top 100 Songs of 1966". musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Top 100 1974 - UK Music Charts". top-source.info. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  5. ^ "British single certifications – Jimmy Ruffin – What Becomes of the Broken Hearted". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  6. ^ The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 6: 1966 [liner notes]. New York: Hip-O Select/Motown/Universal Records
  7. ^ "Big Little Lies Soundtrack". /www.what-song.com. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  8. ^ "For All Mankind Soundtrack". tunefind. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  9. ^ a b U.S. Cash Box Chart Entries - 1990 - 1996
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 264.
  11. ^ a b "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1992-03-28. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  12. ^ a b "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1992-03-07. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  13. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  14. ^ "Top 100 Singles of 1992 in Canada". Musiccanada.wordpress.com. 24 March 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  15. ^ "1992 The Year in Music" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 104, no. 52. December 26, 1992. p. YE-38. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
  17. ^ "Cover versions of What Becomes of the Brokenhearted written by James A. Dean, Paul Riser, William Weatherspoon | SecondHandSongs". secondhandsongs.com. Retrieved 2023-09-14.
  18. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 599–600. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  19. ^ "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted by Joan Osborne starring The Funk Brothers". SecondHandSongs.
  • Ritz, David (1992). "Jimmy Ruffin". Liner notes from Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection: 1959 - 1971. Motown Record Company, L.P./PolyGram.

External links[edit]