*Thanks to Detroit native and EURweb contributor Larry Buford, we learned about the Universal Music release of “The Temptations: The Singles 1961-1971,” a three-disc set marking the iconic group’s 50th anniversary via an article at wsj.com.
Obviously the CD – set for release this Tuesday, October 25 – will contain the song the Temptin’ Temptations is best known for, “My Girl,” which was written and produced for them by the venerable and youthful looking, (71-year-old) William “Smokey” Robinson.
Smokey tells a great story of how the song came to be and how the tune’s famous guitar lick was almost ditched.
I didn’t set out to write “My Girl” for the Miracles and me to record. My wife at the time wasn’t the inspiration, either. And “My Girl” wasn’t conceived as an answer to “My Guy”-a No. 1 hit I had written for Mary Wells earlier that year. I wrote “My Girl” in 1964 specifically for the Temptations, with hopes they would make it a hit.
Months earlier, I had written “The Way You Do the Things You Do” for them-with Eddie Kendricks singing lead. But after the song became the group’s first big hit, all of Motown’s staff writers and producers began trying to duplicate my success by writing songs for the Temptations, with Eddie singing lead. I had to come up with something different.
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. You know, “Come here girl and let me love you”-that kind of thing. 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.
A short time later, we [the Miracles] were out on the road again with the Temptations. At New York’s Apollo Theater, we went down to the stage and I played them “My Girl” on the piano. Then the Temptations gave it a shot. While David sang lead, the rest of the guys in the group began to add things. They made up their own background vocals, like “hey-hey hey” and a series of “my girls” echoing David’s vocal. The Temptations were the greatest background maker-uppers ever [laughs]. When we were finished, they said they loved the song.