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What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

By Ryker, 826michigan

Liner notes that showcase the meaning and musicality of the Jimmy Ruffin song “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”


Grades 9–12


Informational, Narrative

When giving this song a first listen, it may seem to be just another song about someone experiencing heartbreak, whether it be cheating, a loved one falling out of love, or the death of a significant other. About someone who just felt the need to express their feelings and possibly get famous off it. It’d be reasonable to think this at a glance into the song. But you may find out when exploring deeper that “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” faces another aspect of this common experience. In fact, instead of creating a depressing or hateful tone or emotion, this song decides to tackle an almost ironic side of the same experience.

This song’s instrumentals project a feeling of acceptance and hopefulness. The strings extrude colors of orange and yellow into a listener’s head. Colors similar to sweet, citrus-filled fruit. This song’s true meaning is about the death of a loved one who the singer must move on from rather than mourn over for the rest of their life. When listening to the song throughout, the more positive ideas of the song are only expressed through the instrumentals, but at the very end, the idea of hopefulness is solidified with the closing lyrics, “I’ll be looking everyday/I know I’m gonna find a way/nothing’s gonna stop me now/ I’ll find a way somehow/I’ll be searching everywhere.” The singer projects a feeling of optimism that says they know what they need to do, and that this stress can be overcome.

With the indirect efforts in writing from Jimmy Dean, Paul Riser, and William Weatherspoon, with the voice of Jimmy Ruffin, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” peaked within the top tens of hit music charts all over the U.S. and Europe, inspiring covers well after the song’s initial debut in 1966.

Personally, I believe that the originality of the song fundamentally is what drew people in, and what people continue to be drawn by. This song still endures well compared to modern songs about similar subjects because most artists choose to only tackle the generic, sad, and forever-defeated feelings. Covers have been spawning throughout the decades, with the most recent official cover being from 2014, nearly fifty years later. Even after the death of Jimmy Ruffin, people of the era, and even those born afterwards, still admire this song for its catchy tune and different take on the “broken heart.” It is likely that this song will always create and maintain a vibe of bliss and good feelings among people, and will be hard to forget.

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