This was written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, who were both members of The Miracles. Robinson wrote the lyrics - he was married at the time to his first wife, Claudette (they were wed from 1957-1986), but Smokey said that the song is not about a specific girl, but "written with all the women in the world in mind."
This song was written in the Apollo Theater when The Temptations were playing as part of a package tour with The Miracles. According to Robinson, he was working out the song on a piano at the theater when his bandmate Ronald White joined him and they hashed out the song. When The Temptations heard it, they convinced Robinson to let them record it instead of The Miracles. Robinson, who was Berry Gordy's right-hand man at Motown agreed, and rehearsed the song with The Tempts over the next week. When they returned to Detroit, Robinson and White produced the session on December 21, 1964 when they recorded this song.
The previous year, Robinson wrote "My Guy
" for Motown singer Mary Wells. That song carried the same sentiment of unconditional love, but from a female perspective.
In a 2006 NPR interview, Robinson explained that he wrote this with David Ruffin's voice in mind. It was the first Temptations single to feature Ruffin on lead vocals (Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams sang lead on previous Temptations singles), and it led to a greater role for Ruffin, as he became their primary lead singer. Robinson went on to write many more hits for The Temptations, who were considered the most talented vocal group at Motown.
Members of the Motown house band The Funk Brothers played on the track. The song has a very simple but effective arrangement, which was charted by Paul Riser. It opens with James Jamerson's bassline, then goes into the ascending guitar figure played by the song's writer/producer Ronald White. Finger snaps come in, then drums played by Benny Benjamin and strings provided by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The arrangement accentuates the vocals, making the words very easy to understand. This served as a template for future Temptations recordings and helped make them stars, as attention was always focused on stage on the singers.
This was the first of four US #1 hits for The Temptations. It was also the first #1 for a male vocal group on the Motown label.
This was used as the title and theme song of a 1991 movie starring Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky, and also its 1994 sequel, My Girl 2. The song also appeared in the movies 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).
TV appearances of the song included episodes of The Wonder Years, Magnum, P.I. and Cold Case.
Some of the many artists who covered this song include Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Dolly Parton and The Mamas & The Papas.
The Rolling Stones covered the song and released it on their Flowers
compilation in June 1967. The Stones also recorded The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg
" and "Just My Imagination
" in 1974 and 1978.