My Girl (1965) - The Temptations - All about the song

Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Dolly Parton and The Mamas & The Papas are among the many artists who have covered the song.

The story behind the song "My Girl" by The Temptations

"My Girl" is a famous hit by The Temptations, recorded in soul style. Back in 1965, the track became the first number one for the band! And to this day it remains a cult hit of its era... Curiously enough, the inspiration for "My Girl" came from Claudette - the wife of the track's author, Smokey Robinson! The composition was included on The Temptations Sing Smokey album released in 1965.

"Dub der-nern, dub der-nern..." - in essence, this playful guitar sound has not the slightest meaning. It's not loud, it's not heavy... There's nothing unusual about it, and it uses only two notes of the major scale! But once you hear it, it's clear: this is the sound of "My Girl" by The Temptations... And it's beautiful!


"My Girl" is one of the key soul records of the 60s. The song was written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, who were both members of The Miracles. Robinson wrote the lyrics - at the time he was married to his first wife Claudette (they were married from 1957 until 1986). Therefore, it is commonly believed that Claudette was the source of inspiration... However, Smokey himself said that the song is not about a particular girl, but about all the women of the world... The beautiful guitar sound at the very beginning of the song, by the way, belongs to Motown session musician Robert White.

Smokey Robinson
Smokey Robinson

This song was written at the Apollo Theater when The Temptations were playing as part of a tour with The Miracles. According to Robinson, he was working on the song on the piano in the theatre when his bandmate Ronald White joined him and they wrote the song. When The Temptations heard it, they convinced Robinson to let them record the track with The Miracles. Robinson, who was Berry Gordy's right-hand man in Motown, agreed. So, the very next week, he was rehearsing the song with The Temptations. When they returned to Detroit, Robinson and White produced the session. Thus came the legendary "My Girl"!

This was the first Temptations single to feature Ruffin as lead vocalist. This eventually led to Ruffin becoming the lead vocalist of the band (previously Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams had played lead roles on previous Temptations singles)! The Temptations went on to become the most talented vocal group in Motown, and Robinson wrote many more hits for them... But it was "My Girl" that made the Temptations the real stars!

The Temptations
The Temptations

Founder and last original member of The Temptations, singer Otis Williams recalled:

"Our real big game, our first million-selling title was My Girl, which came out in 1965..."

The song that was everywhere....

Curiously enough, Smokey wrote "My Girl" as a sort of response record to his own song "My Guy". The aforementioned track was also a success for Mary Wells in 1964... And "My Girl" surpassed that success! Robinson had the opportunity to keep this tidbit for his band, but he made it a hit with The Temptations. As the author himself tells it, he already knew in advance how well the team would do with his creation... And he didn't miss! He also knew this because he had been writing songs for The Temptations since 1963. For example, the song "The Way You Do the Things You Do" was co-written by Smokey and another member of the Miracles, Bobby Rogers.

Otis Williams later recounted:

"We were at the Apollo in New York and Smokey came over to check out us rehearsing his song. Then I told him, "This sounds like it could be something cool..." Then we came home, recorded this track, and... we were amazed! We just sat there and listened to "My Girl" and it sounded like a real number one! You know, it's very rare to predict a number one tune... But at the time, we really felt like it was going to be something bigger than the songs we'd recorded before. And thankfully it was."

The track was played by members of Motown's house band, The Funk Brothers. The song has a very simple but effective arrangement, which was written by Paul Reiser. It opens with James Jamerson's bass line, followed by the ascending sound of the guitar played by songwriter/producer Ronald White... There are finger snaps, then drums played by Benny Benjamin and strings provided by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The arrangement emphasises the vocals, making the words very clear. This served as a model for future Temptations recordings and helped make them stars, as the stage was always focused on the singers.

Great tenderness, controlled force.....

Robinson's understanding of what David Ruffin was able to convey was key to the song's success: capable of great vocal tenderness but with impressive controlled power, "My Girl", released on 21 December 1964, allowed him to reveal both aspects of his singing talent! "My Girl" was rated as the tenth biggest hit of 1965! In time, the track "My Girl" would become one of Motown's most successful singles! The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in the late 90's.

Interesting facts...

The Temptations
The Temptations
  • The Temptations were an innovative group in terms of choreography: they made precise movements to emphasise their songs. The group used expressive gestures that became widely associated with the song! It was not uncommon to see people making movements while listening to it.
  • Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Dolly Parton and The Mamas & The Papas are among the many artists who have covered the song.

  • The track was used as the title and theme song of the 1991 film starring Macaulay Culkin and Anna Klamsky, as well as its 1994 sequel.
  • The song also appeared in the films The Big Chill (1983), Mannequin (1987), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Munich (2005) and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007).
  • The Rolling Stones covered this song and released it on their Flowers compilation album in June 1967.

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