In today's Wall Street Journal, I interview Smokey Robinson on the writing and producing of his hit song My Girl in 1964. The silky ode to love is significant because it was David Ruffin's first lead vocal recording and the Temptation's first No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit—meaning it crossed over and won over masses of white teenage record buyers. During my conversation with Smokey, he clears up the myths surrounding the song's inspiration and talks about how My Girl's famed guitar riff came to be. [You can grab a copy of the Wall Street Journal—or if you subscribe, go here]
My Girl was Motown's seventh No. 1 pop hit and 12th No. 1 R&B chart hit. Released on December 21, 1964, the single reached the top position on Billboard's Hot 100 chart the first week of March 1965. It remained there for only one week before being knocked into the No. 2 spot by the Beatles' Eight Days a Week.
Today, My Girl is considered Motown's de facto anthem and its most lucrative single. Smokey still performs his song during each of his performances. He says audiences know instantly what's coming as soon as they hear the first heart-throbbing bass notes.
Smokey next appears on Oct. 29 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, Conn. As for the Temptations, co-founder and baritone Otis Williams still appears with the group. They will be appearing next on Nov. 11 at Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. And on Tuesday, a three-CD set The Temptations: The Singles Collection 1961-1971 (Universal) will be released as part of the group's 50th anniversary at iTunes and here.
JazzWax clip: Here are the Temptations singing My Girl, an ingenious song on so many levels. Dig the opening bass notes, the repeating guitar lick and placement of the strings. Also note the choreography...