The Temptations’ “My Girl” is Song of the Week on Classic Pop Icons.
“My Girl” was released on single in December 1964, backed with “(Talking ‘Bout) Nobody But My Baby,” and three months later was featured on the album “The Temptations Sing Smokey”.
In a 2011 interview with Marc Myers for the Wall Street Journal, “My Girl” songwriter, Smokey Robinson, dispelled some of the myths about how the song was conceived, noting that it was not written as an answer record to “My Girl” (the number one hit he had penned for Mary Wells earlier in 1964), it was not inspired by his wife Claudette, and it was not originally intended as a song for his own group The Miracles. According to Smokey, “My Girl” was always intended specifically for The Temptations for whom he had already written the hit “The Way You Do the Things You Do”. The success of that song, which featured Eddie Kendricks on lead vocals, prompted other Motown staff writers to pitch material for the group, with Kendricks again intended as the lead vocalist. With this in mind, Smokey decided to try something different and write with David Ruffin in mind as the lead. Smokey explained to the Wall Street Journal:
“Fortunately, Eddie wasn’t the only one in the group with a fine voice. I had heard David Ruffin sing lead while we were all on the same bill at a series of Detroit clubs. So while everyone else at Motown focused on Eddie, I sat down at my piano in Detroit and composed a song for David. But unlike Eddie, David had this gruff, tough baritone voice… I figured that if I he sang something sweet and sincere, the contrast would connect with girls who listened to the radio and bought records. To bring that out, I imagined a pulsating, heartbeat tempo. I already had the key and chord changes in mind. The melody just came.”
Smokey introduced the song to The Temptations as they gathered around the piano after a show at New York’s Apollo Theater. It was at this point that some of the great vocal touches featured on the recording were developed by the group, including the repeated echoing of the “my girl” lyric by the backing vocalists.
The classic intro was conceived by guitarist Robert White during the session at which the instrumental track was recorded (prior to The Temptations entering the studio for the vocals). Smokey recalled the scene as follows:
“At the start of the third rundown, guitarist Robert White stood up and started walking around the studio playing a riff [sings the song’s signature line]. But halfway in, Robert cut it off, saying “No, no, no, no, no.” He didn’t think what he had was right. I said, “No, no, no, my butt. That’s going to be in the song.” Now, of course, that line has become one of the most famous guitar riffs ever recorded.”
“My Girl” was placed at number 88 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
“My Girl” – The Temptations
“My Girl” was written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, who also jointly produced the recording.
“My Girl” was recorded at Hitsville USA (Studio A) on September 25, November 10 and November 17, 1964. The instrumental track was recorded in September and the vocals and strings were overdubbed in November.
The Temptations were:
- David Ruffin – lead vocal
- Eddie Kendricks – backing vocal
- Melvin Franklin – backing vocal
- Paul Williams – backing vocal
- Otis Williams – backing vocal.
The Temptations were backed by the strings of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Motown’s house band, the Funk Brothers, featuring Robert White (guitar), James Jamerson (bass) and Benny Benjamin (drums).
Paul Riser arranged the strings.
(left-right) Paul Williams, David Ruffin, Otis Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin
“My Girl” topped Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart for the week ending March 6, 1965. This was The Tempations first of four US Number One singles. The other chart toppers were “I Can’t Get Next to You” (1969), “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” (1971), and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1972).
The single reached number two on the UK singles chart in 1992 after featuring on the soundtrack of the popular movie of the same name.
Notable other versions
“My Girl” – Otis Redding
“My Girl” was one of a number of strong covers that Otis Redding recorded for this 1965 album “Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul”. The recording has a lot in common with the original, with the main differences arising from Otis’ phrasing and the trademark Stax horns, which replace the string parts that were such an important component of The Temptations’ recording.
Otis’ cover reached number 11 on the UK singles chart.
“My Girl” – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Smokey Robinson recorded the song with the Miracles in 1969 for the “Time Out For Smokey Robinson & The Miracles” album. Smokey’s lively arrangement and melodic changes suggest he was keen to produce a recording that would be distinctive from the original. He certainly succeeeded in doing that, but the result doesn’t have the charm of the original. It’s no suprise that when he sings the song in concert now, it’s the original arrangement that is used.
“My Girl” – The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones recorded “My Girl” during the December 1965 “Aftermath” sessions, but it remained unreleased until its appearance on the 1967 compilation album “Flowers”. Considering the Rolling Stones’ hard rocking reputation, this is a surprisingly mellow cover. The band chose to record it in a lower key than the original, and the result is that Jagger never really gets to grips with it. All very pleasant, but not essential.
The Temptations’ “My Girl” is available on numerous compilations, including the 3 CD “The Temptations: The Singles Collection 1961-1971” and “The Temptations: My Girl – The Collection”.
The Temptations – The Singles Collection 1961-1971
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The Temptations: My Girl – The Collection
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Tags: My Girl, Otis Blue - Otis Redding Sings Soul, Otis Redding, smokey robinson, The Rolling Stones, The Temptations, The Temptations My Girl
Posted in Motown, Song of the Week |