I Second That Emotion

Album: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1967)
Charted: 27 4


  • "I second that motion" is a common phrase heard at meetings in America where policy is being determined. It's what Motown producer Al Cleveland meant to say when he was on a shopping trip with Smokey Robinson.

    As Robinson recalls in his 1989 autobiography, he and Cleveland went to a Detroit department store called Hudson's to do Christmas shopping in December 1967. Smokey's wife, Claudette, had recently given birth to twins that didn't survive the premature birth, and he was looking to get her a gift. At the jewelry counter, Smokey picked out some pearls and asked Robinson what he thought. "I second that emotion" was his reply, and later that afternoon the pair wrote a song around the misspoken phrase. Robinson and Cleveland produced the song, and it was released in October 1968, entering the US Top 40 in December, about a year after it was written. The song was also a #1 R&B hit.
  • This was the first Top 10 hit for the group after their 1967 name change from The Miracles. Robinson and Cleveland teamed up to write several more hits for the group, including "Special Occasion" (#26 US, 1968), "Yester Love" (#31 US, 1968), and "Baby, Baby Don't Cry" (#8 US, 1969).
  • Robinson and Cleveland wrote a third verse for this song, which pushed the length to 3:15. Acutely aware that songs longer than 3 minutes were often denied airplay, Motown head Berry Gordy had them eliminate the verse and bring the song down to 2:38, which was much more palatable for radio programmers. Robinson was OK with altering the song, as he had tremendous respect for Gordy's judgment and wanted the song to be a hit. He felt that he could tell a story in a song in whatever time he was allotted - even under 3 minutes.
  • In songwriting circles, this one is often studied for its use of secondary rhymes and melodic intricacy. Smokey Robinson sprinkled in words like "notion" and "devotion" to compliment the title, all while rhyming verses with phrases like "kisses sweet" and "no repeat." The guitar line also perfectly accents the vocal. Robinson credits Berry Gordy for his songwriting evolution. Gordy was a songwriter before he started Motown (he wrote song for Jackie Wilson), and he taught Robinson how to write intricate, yet accessible songs like this one.
  • This was featured on the soundtrack of the 1983 film The Big Chill. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerro - New Alexandria, PA
  • This song was a favorite of Jerry Garcia; he often performed it with the Grateful Dead and with the Jerry Garcia Band. These versions show up on a variety of bootleg recordings.

Comments: 5

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 10th 1967, "I Second That Emotion" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles peaked at #4 (for 3 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on October 29th and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #1 (for 1 week) on January 13th, 1968 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    In 1969 the super group of Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations covered it; their version peaked at #19 on the Top 100.
  • Oldpink from New Castle, InIt's such a joyful song. Thanks go out to Smokey for all the happiness this song brings to anyone feeling down.
  • Josh from Pittsburgh, PaJerry Garcia Band covered this song.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThe song made the UK Top 10 when covered by synth-rockers Japan in 1982
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThe song made the UK Top 10 when covered by synth-rockers Japan
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Famous Singers' First Films

Famous Singers' First FilmsSong Writing

A look at the good (Diana Ross, Eminem), the bad (Madonna, Bob Dylan) and the peculiar (David Bowie, Michael Jackson) film debuts of superstar singers.

David Gray

David GraySongwriter Interviews

David Gray explains the significance of the word "Babylon," and talks about how songs are a form of active imagination, with lyrics that reveal what's inside us.

Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe ShaverSongwriter Interviews

The outlaw country icon talks about the spiritual element of his songwriting and his Bob Dylan mention.

Grunge Bands Quiz

Grunge Bands QuizMusic Quiz

If the name Citizen Dick means anything to you, there's a chance you'll get some of these right.

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo Lyric

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo LyricMusic Quiz

In this quiz, spot the artist who put Romeo into a song lyric.

Meshell Ndegeocello

Meshell NdegeocelloSongwriter Interviews

Meshell Ndegeocello talks about recording "Wild Night" with John Mellencamp, and explains why she shied away from the spotlight.