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Smokey Robinson, On Why He Wrote “My Girl” For the Temptations

Incredible bit of history here, from the guy who lived it.

The Reason Smokey Robinson Wrote ‘My Girl’ Had Nothing To Do With A Girl

It was primarily because of one man: David Ruffin.

It’s almost impossible to think of the song “My Girl” without immediately humming those first few notes of its iconic opening riff. It was one of the biggest hits to come out of Berry Gordy’s Motown — “My Girl” became a best-selling single, rose to the top of the Billboard charts, became The Temptations’ first number-one song and marked the first time the label itself landed a number-one hit with one of their male vocal groups. Even today, more than 50 years after its release, “My Girl” still stands out, ranking among the best songs of all time.

A big part of the song’s success was its writer, Smokey Robinson. Smokey was one of Motown’s big songwriters/producers at the time; he was also the lead singer of his own vocal group, the Miracles. And, yet, Smokey never intended to keep “My Girl” for himself — it was always meant for his so-called competitors.

As Smokey tells “Oprah’s Master Class,” competition at Motown may have been fierce, but it was incredibly common for everyone to work together in an effort to strike gold with a big hit.

“It would be nothing for us to go into the studio and help one of our competitors with a song that they were working on, with an artist that we were working on,” Smokey says. “We all did that, for each other.”

In fact, Motown’s policy was that no one had a lock on a particular artist; any writer or producer could choose to work with any willing artist. This is what happened with Smokey and The Temptations. He very deliberately wrote “My Girl” for them.

“Were it not for The Temptations, I never would have written ‘My Girl,'” Smokey says.

When The Temptations first signed with Motown, the label’s founder, Berry Gordy, instructed Smokey to “get some hits on them.” Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams typically alternated as the group’s lead singers, but Smokey saw incredible potential in background singer David Ruffin.

“I wrote ‘My Girl’ for David Ruffin’s voice,” Smokey says. “The Temptations were so creative in making up the background vocals… All the stuff that they’re singing on ‘My Girl,’ they made that up themselves.”

The combination of those background vocals, Ruffin’s distinct voice and Smokey’s writing is what made the song such a hit, three important factors that all aligned at the right moment.

“No, I don’t wish I would have kept it for myself,” Smokey says of the song. “[The Temptations are] the ones who brought it out of me!”

This strong sense of community was always prevalent in Smokey’s career with Motown. Everyone there, he adds, felt like family.

“I always was so happy whenever I got a hit record on one of the artists,” Smokey says. “They were my brothers and sisters. If I could do something to enhance their career and make things better for them, that made me happy.”

See the full interview on OWN Nov 1st at 8 PM.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Motown Concert At the White House

Seems to be going around… But inspired by the¬†Motown¬†Concert at the White House tonight, everyone is picking their Top All Time List of Motown Songs.

President Obama to host Motown concert at White House

President Barack Obama is celebrating rhythm and blues with a Motown White House concert Thursday night.

Smokey Robinson is set to headline PBS’ “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House,” with guests, including singers Sheryl Crow and John Legend, who will perform Motown hits.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden will also attend the event.

Other performers for the night include Natasha Bedingfield, Jamie Foxx, Gloriana, Nick Jonas, Ledisi, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Seal and Jordin Sparks.

Now unfortunately, other than Smokey Robinson, I’m not sure how many actual Motown Stars are going to be there. But without further ado – He’s BTx3’s Top 30 All Time Motown Song List!
  1. My Girl – Temptations
  2. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) – Four Tops
  3. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg – Temptations
  4. The Tracks of My Tears – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
  5. Where Did Our Love Go? – Supremes
  6. (Love Is Like a) Heat Wave – Martha & The Vandellas
  7. What’s Goin’ On? – Marvin Gaye
  8. Dancing in the Street – Martha & The Vandellas
  9. I Want You Back – Jackson 5
  10. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
  11. What Becomes of the Brokenhearted? – Jimmy Ruffin
  12. Please Mr. Postman – Marvelettes
  13. My Guy – Mary Wells
  14. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) – Temptations
  15. Shotgun – Jr. Walker & The All Stars
  16. Shop Around – Miracles
  17. War – Edwin Starr
  18. You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Supremes
  19. Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone – Temptations
  20. Super Freak Part I – Rick James
  21. Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) – Marvin Gaye
  22. Jimmy Mack – Martha & The Vandellas
  23. Don’t Mess With Bill – Marvelettes
  24. Since I Lost My Baby – Temptations
  25. Don’t Leave Me This Way – Thelma Houston
  26. All Night Long (All Night) – Lionel Richie
  27. Let It Whip – Dazz Band
  28. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love?) – Jr. Walker
  29. Function At The Junction – Shorty Long
  30. Does Your Mama Know About Me? – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers

Now This is the Lead Vocal Track off of the 4 Tops “Just Ask The Lonely” Song performed by Levi Stubbs. I suspect someone re-created this because the background singers are flat. I would guess when this was originally recorded they still only used 8 tracks, and may not have moved up to 16. In any event it illustrates the shear power and artistry of Levi’s voice, on what I think is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and performed.

Here is the full mix, apparently from an analog source –

 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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The Prez Sings – “Lift Every Voice”

Our “Post Racial President” even knows the the first stanza!

(Keep your day job, Mr. President!)

OK, Old Timers – a flashback! Kim Weston at Wattstax, August 20, 1972 –

Now – when I was a little tike in segregated Virginia elementary school – we sang this each morning, instead of the “National Anthem” – and then did the Pledge of Allegiance.

James Weldon Johnson

Lift every voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won. Read the rest of this entry »
 
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Posted by on February 11, 2010 in Black History

 

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People Get Ready…

This performance by Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson at the White House “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement” –

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2010 in Black History

 

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