So one day I decided to dig through my father's record collection in the off chance he would have SOMETHING remotely resembling this music I loved so deeply. Strangely, there was. Amongst the Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand easy listening LPs there was one solitary collection of Motown "Monster Hits 2". I don't know how it got there, but it was waiting just for me. These weren't your typical Motown hits. This was on Pickwick, so they were lesser known hits and b-sides.
The song on this collection that captured my affection the most was called "(When I See Her) Gonna Give Her All the Love I Got" by Jimmy Ruffin. I was hooked after the first bar of James Jamerson's bass, beating like a restless heart. It's followed by a xylophone with the six most beautiful notes I had heard in my then 11 years of life. After that Jimmy chimes in to tell his compelling story about going to see the girl he left behind before being sent to prison. The anticipatory heartbeat is echoed again later in the song in the drums. It's your typical Motown masterpiece tied up nicely with a little bow. Later I would learn about Motown producers and musicians, but at the time it was all about me and my love affair with the voice of Jimmy Ruffin. There was no internet at the time and so it was years before I even knew what Jimmy Ruffin looked like. All I knew was that incredible voice that cut through the darkness all the way to my tiny heart.
When my other little friends were singing in front of the mirror to Madonna and Wham, I was singing in the shower and in front of the mirror to Jimmy Ruffin (and admittedly Madonna and Wham as well). The other 11 year-olds thought I was weird for liking all this "old music". It was then that I realized I wasn't like other kids. I was out of step with my times. I can't say that it deterred me for even one nanosecond from pursuing my new found passion. I was firmly footed on a path that would lead to decades dedicated to trying to convert other people to my musical religion.
I listened to that record over and over until I knew all of the words, every note, every celebratory sweeping of the strings, every drum beat, every back up vocal. All of it. Backwards and forwards. And so this morning after hearing the news of Jimmy's passing I had no problem recalling all of it for one more solo performance during my morning shower. That one was dedicated to Jimmy. Thank you my old friend. And thank you Pickwick for not wanting to pay for the rights of the best known Motown hits.