On March 6, 1965, “My Girl” became the Temptations’ first #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first of four chart-topping singles for the Motown supergroup.
I have written about the Temptations before. Their songs transcended pop music.
“My Girl” was a ballad written and produced by William “Smokey” Robinson and Ronald “Ronnie” White of the Miracles. Robinson had written the hit “My Guy” for Mary Wells one year earlier.
The inspiration behind Robinson’s lyrics came from his wife, and Miracles member, Claudette. The beauty in the song’s words, like so many of Robinson’s compositions, is why Bob Dylan called him “America’s greatest living poet.”
I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May
You can hear the music as you read those words. The bassline of James Jamerson. The ascending guitar played by Robert White. Once again, instrumentation from The Funk Brothers, Motown’s in-house band of (numerous) session musicians, added to the soundtrack of the ’60s and made “My Girl” one of Motown’s most familiar melodies.
The lore behind the song is that the Miracles and the Temptations were performing together at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and, after the show, the Temptations heard the rhythm track for “My Girl” and begged Robinson to let them record the song as their own.
A different version of the story claims that Robinson had to persuade the Temptations to record his song. While watching the Temptations perform, Robinson was so impressed with the group’s newest member, David Ruffin, he wanted Ruffin to sing lead on a new song he’d written (Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams had been sharing the group’s lead-vocal duties). After persuading the group, Robinson headed back to Detroit with the quintet to produce the recording session.
Another version has Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, instructing Robinson and White to write and produce hits for the Temptations – with “My Girl” becoming the most successful song from their collaboration.
Regardless of how the recording came together, “My Girl” debuted at #76 on the singles chart on January 16 and, seven weeks later, was sitting at #1. But its reign would be fleeting. The song dropped to #2 the following week (bumped by the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week”).
Here’s a performance of “My Girl” from Shindig!, a mid-60s music program on the ABC television network: https://youtu.be/GpV33-wpREU