Smokey Robinson’s body of work is impressive enough to have earned him praise from Bob Dylan as one of “America’s greatest living poets.” BR1 With his group, the Miracles, Smokey gifted the world with such iconic hits as “Shop Around,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” and “The Tears of a Clown.” However, some of his biggest hits were for other Motown acts, including Mary Wells’ #1 “My Guy” and the Temptations’ “My Girl.”
Smokey wrote the latter about his wife, Claudette, SF with Ronald White. All three were members of the Miracles and naturally Smokey intended his group to record it. When the Temptations heard it, though, they begged Robinson for the song. RS500
He relented, having already been looking for something for the Temptations’ “throaty tenor David Ruffin” RS500 to “belt out” WK that was also “melodic and sweet.” WK Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks had assumed lead vocal duties for the group; Kendricks even sang lead on the Smokey Robinson-penned “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” However, when Smokey saw the Temps perform as part of a collective tour of the Motown roster, he determined Ruffin was the group’s “sleeping giant.” WK
Robinson’s hunch proved right. Not only did “My Girl” become a #1 in the hands of David Ruffin, but it gave the Temptations their signature song. Ruffin stepped out front as the primary lead singer after that. SF The song is so tied to the Temptations that the group evoked boos from their audiences when they tried cutting it from their set. NPR
BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 168.