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I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You) - the Temptations

The Temptations single "I Wish It Would Rain", lyrics mainly by Rodger Penzabene (see last post), was released on December 21st, 1967, just 10 days before Penzabene fatally shot himself on New Year's eve. The presumption many have made is that he deliberately waited for the record to hit the radio airwaves before committing suicide so that his allegedly unfaithful wife would be filled with remorse.

Penzabene, with Barrett Strong's help, wrote the lyrics for both "I Wish It Would Rain" and "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" and they share a depth of despondency seldom achieved in pop music, the latter song containing the veiled threat of his forthcoming action:

"'ve taken away my reason for living and you won't even tell me why."

Appropriately "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)", was the follow-up to "I Wish It Would Rain". Many have ascribed the hopeless desperation of David Ruffin's lead vocal to his sadness in the aftermath of Penzabene's demise, but it was recorded in the same sessions as "Rain", the previous April 22nd, long before his death. Which just proves what a damn good singer Ruffin was, tortuously squeezing every possible drop of tearful suffering out of Penzabene and Strong's' words.

I think that "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" was the first record I bought in which half the title was bracketed. I have always liked the effect this produces, emphasising one, perhaps overlooked, part of the song name, seeming to give it hidden depth, more substance, more levels of understanding.

After the success of "Rain", Norman Whitfield was now firmly ensconced in the Temptations' producer seat, and for the first time indulges in the rich, some say overcluttered, orchestration which was to become the hallmark of his latter-day records with them. In this case, it works, but only just, the massed strings elevating the everyday mishap of domestic split, personified in the relaxed rhythm struck by Benny Benjamin's slapping bongos,

"...before you walk out the door there's something I want you to know....."

to epic, tragic proportions. Ruffin's repeated repetition of words and rhyming sounds is brilliant, giving extra super pathos to his grovelling pleas for her to stay,

"It was only, only, only, only yesterday

your words are still fresh in my mind....."

culminating in the sublime:

"....listen baby, I don't know what it's gonna take to make you stay - I just know I've got to find a way -

'cause I could never, never, never, never ever love another, after loving you."

Recently Penzabene's wife, Helga, has said that he was a depressive, and his suicide was nothing to do with any supposed infidelity on her part but as Mandy Rice-Davies would have said, "well she would, wouldn't she?". In Helga's defence, the suggestion that her husband killed himself because of her philandering is the better story, and a good story will usually take precedence over the truth.

The other hidden layer of tragedy of the song is that it was David Ruffin's last recording with the original Temptations line-up (he returned for the one-off "Reunion" album in 1982, along with numerous other "Temptations"). But in 1968, he was fired because of unreliability caused in part by his increasingly troublesome addiction to crack cocaine. He was also persistently late for recordings and concerts, as well as becoming more demanding and difficult as a self-styled star within the Motown Corporation. He was replaced by his friend and ex-Contour Dennis Edwards, but made things difficult for Edwards by unexpectedly appearing onstage in concerts, grabbing the mic and taking over the lead vocal mid-song.

Ruffin died of a drug overdose in 1991. In his latter days at Motown, stories circulated about his violent, drug and alcohol fuelled temper and it has been alleged that on one occasion he struck girlfriend Tammi Terrell on the head with a motorcycle helmet and on another with a hammer. These blows may or may not have contributed to the brain tumour that killed her three years later in 1970.

When the 1998 Motown biopic mini-series was aired on NBC tv, Ruffin's family sued Motown for the way he is portrayed in the film. On the other hand, some commentators claim that in Motown there was a "Corporation line" which ensured Motown ex-staff didn't talk about any nefarious goings-on within the organisation, including how women were treated, which afforded reputational protection to Ruffin and other men within the organisation.

So there's always at least two sides to a story; and often none of them are very pretty.


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