belated tunes: The Jackson 5, “All I Do Is Think Of You” & Jimmy Ruffin, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?”

The Jackson 5, “All I Do Is Think Of You”

The Jackson 5’s 1975 ballad “All I Do Is Think Of You” is an important piece of Jackson and Motown history. “All I Do”, from their final (ironically titled) Motown release, Moving Violation, was the last hit The Jackson 5 had under the Motown label before Jermaine Jackson left to start his solo career. More notably, it was their last hit before moving to the CBS Records due a number of artistic and business disagreements the group had with Motown.

Here, we have two recordings of the brothers performing “All I Do”: an appearance on Soul Train, and a live showing on The Mike Douglas Show, both in 1975.

The Jackson 5, “All I Do Is Think Of You” (Soul Train, 1975)

The Soul Train outing finds The Jackson 5 on a smaller stage, in front of a small group of slow dancing teens (fitting given that the song is about an at-school romance, and was written for the 16 year-old Michael’s new voice). Familiarity with the studio recording of “All I Do” reveals that this is a wholly lip-synced performance: the guitar retains an identical tone, and Michael appears to perfectly recreate the runs found on the studio version. This seems appropriate and even accepted, though: the much of the crowd can be caught dancing with their backs to the stage.

Still, the choreography and performance flair is there: the brothers wear flashy, matching powder blue suits, and they step and spin in unison until the end of the first chorus, when Michael steps forward. And even when this happen, Michael will often suddenly snap back into step with his brothers, only to fade into his runs and fall into his own thing.

And the performance on The Mike Douglas Show is choreographically similar: the same synced-up dance moves are there (mostly spin moves), and Michael breaks out on cue. But the stage is bigger, the crowd is bigger (and seated), and their play and vocals are obviously live.

The Jackson 5, “All I Do Is Think Of You” (The Mike Douglas Show, 1975)

Both performances find Jermaine playing guitar and singing backup vocals, while “unofficial” member Randy—whom would join the group after their move to CBS, when they became The Jacksons due to trademark issues—plays congas off to the side. Also, in the beginning of the Mike Douglas Show video, Michael remarks that “All I Do” is one of their favorite songs, which is interesting given that most of the group’s hits were more upbeat, poppy numbers. As these performances shortly preceded their departure from Motown, it could have been a way of subtly noting their artistic dissatisfaction with the label at this point in their collective career.

(Also definitely worth checking out is J Dilla’s flip of this as “Time: The Donut of the Heart” from 2006’s critically-acclaimed Donuts.)

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 Jimmy Ruffin, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?”

Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?”, released in 1966, became Ruffin’s first hit since signing with Motown in 1961. It was also his most successful hit. But this performance came 8 years after “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” peaked at #7 on the US charts and #8 in the UK in October 1966. “What Becomes” remains one of the more cherished Motown singles, as indicated by another performance on YouTube that has notched well over one million views.

Jimmy Ruffin, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” (live, 1974)

But there’s a distinct difference between the studio version of “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” and Ruffin’s live renditions. When he performed it live, he always began with a spoken verse:

Our world is filled with love, it’s a wonderful sight
Being in love is everyone’s harsh delight
But that look of love isn’t on my face
That enchanted feeling has been replaced

This sets the tone for a far more downtrodden performance of an otherwise strangely triumphant tune. Ruffin sings more softly, most notably on the second line of the chorus: “Who had a sweet love that’s now departed?” And instead of dancing (which would obviously subtract from the song’s broken-heartedness), Ruffin moves slowly, gesticulating and often looking into the camera with a furrowed brow and a convincing look of struggle. It isn’t clear whether there’s an off-stage backing band or Ruffin is singing with a recording, but it sounds much more like the former.

There’s nothing flamboyant about this live recording, and if one were to just listen to it after hearing the studio version, it might even register as underwhelming. But it appears as though Ruffin’s made the conscious effort to take the bases of the studio recording and more closely to its emotional core. That is, when he asks us what becomes of the broken hearted, it’s purely rhetorical: he’s tired from his search for solace, and his vocals reflect such.

Jimmy Ruffin, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” (studio version)