I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)

Album: Four Tops' Second Album (1965)
Charted: 10 1


  • The song was written by the wildly successful Motown team of Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland, who wrote most of The Supremes hits. The melody of this song is very similar to "Where Did Our Love Go," which Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote for The Supremes. According to Lamont Dozier, the title came about because he couldn't help himself from working with the same tune.
  • Lamont Dozier told the story behind this song in a behind-the-scenes video for his 2018 Reimagination album: "I stayed with my grandmother when I was a kid. She owned her own home beauty shop, and when the women would come up the walkway to get their hair done, my grandfather would be pedaling around in the garden. He was a bit of a flirt, and would say, 'How you doin', sugar pie? Good morning, honey bunch.' He was one of those types of guys. My grandmother had a big bay window to the front of the house. She'd say, 'Look at that old codger - he thinks I don't see. I know what he's doing.' He was just flirting with his big smile. I'm sitting there on the porch watching this - I'm probably 11 or 12. I was like a sponge, soaking it up.

    Years later, at Motown, I'm sitting at the piano. I'd take these mind trips back to my childhood, and I'm trying to see what this piano part is telling me. Sure enough, there my grandfather is, pedaling in the garden. That memory comes to my mind's eye, and I know where the song is supposed to go. I hear him saying, 'Good morning, sugar pie. How you doin', honey bunch?' That's what started it."
  • This was the first US #1 hit for The Four Tops, and it was a big one, topping the Hot 100 for two weeks and the R&B chart for an amazing nine. The group had paid their dues: they formed in 1953 and didn't get a Motown deal until 10 years later. Their first Motown single, "Baby I Need Your Loving," did very well, but this one established them as one of the top acts in the company.
  • The Four Tops were signed to Columbia Records in 1960, releasing one single: "Ain't That Love." After "I Can't Help Myself" hit, Columbia re-released "Ain't That Love," which set a fire under Motown, which needed a follow-up so Columbia couldn't steal their thunder. They had Holland-Dozier-Holland quickly come up with a new song, which was essentially a rewrite with the apropos title "It's the Same Old Song." Recorded and pressed in just one day, it reached #5 on the Hot 100, while "Ain't That Love" stalled at #93.
  • Like many listeners who felt the lyrics were a little too sugary, lead singer Levi Stubbs hated this song - the quartet cut it at the insistence of producer Brian Holland. After recording the song, Stubbs was still upset. Holland reassured him that they could re-record it the following day, but there was no second try and take 2 was released as the single.
  • In an interview with Performing Songwriter magazine, Lamont Dozier explained how this came together: "The song was started with a bass figure, with me sitting at the piano. It wasn't slowed down, like the usual songs. The bass line was the whole song, at that tempo. When I said, 'Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,' it was over with. We went right in and cut it."
  • This was one of the songs The Four Tops played at Live Aid in 1985. The concert was held simultaneously in Philadelphia and England, and raised over $100 million to aid famine victims in Africa. They were the third band to play the Philadelphia stage, after Joan Baez and The Hooters.
  • In the UK, this was the group's first single, issued with their American Motown debut, "Baby I Need Your Loving," as the B-side. It was released to coincide with their first European tour in the summer of 1965, and reached #23. In 1970, it was re-released in the UK and hit #10.
  • This was used in the movies Into the Night (1985), My Blue Heaven (1990), Forrest Gump (1994), Rat Race (2001) and Shark Tale (2004).
  • A version by Donnie Elbert went to #22 US in 1972; Bonnie Pointer's cover made #40 in 1980. Dolly Parton also recorded the song on her 1984 CD of cover tracks The Great Pretender.
  • When this hit #1 in America on June 19, 1965, it bumped off another song written by Holland-Dozier-Holland: "Back in My Arms Again" by The Supremes.

Comments: 20

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 26, 1972, Donnie Elbert performed his covered version of "I Can't Help Myself" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #23 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, the following week it would peak at #22 {for 2 weeks} and it spent nine weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #6 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
    And on the same 'Bandstand' show he also performed "Sweet Baby", the month before on January 16th the song entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at position #96, three weeks later it peaked at #92, and that was also it's fourth and final week on the Top 100...
    It reached #30 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
    Besides the above two records, the New Orleans native had three other Top 100 records, "What Can I Do" {#61 in 1957}, "Can't Get Over Losing You" {#98 in 1970}, and "Where Did Our Love Go" {#15 in 1971}...
    Sadly, Donnie Elbert passed away at the young age of 52 on January 26th, 1989 {a stroke}...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaFunny that the Tops hated this tune. I understand that when the song Do You Love Me was recorded the Funks who played on it said it wouldn't fly. But the public liked them both.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 5th 1965, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr. appeared on the game show "To Tell The Truth"; and he fooled all four panelists...
    At the time Motown Records had seven records on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart with "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bun)" by the Four Tops at #2, the week before it was the #1 record.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 28th 1965, the New York City disc jockey Murray the K's television special, 'It's What's Happening, Baby!’, was aired on the CBS-TV network...
    One of the eighteen acts to appear on the show were the Four Tops; at the time the Motown quartet's "I Can't Help Myself" was in its first of two non-consecutive weeks at #1 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, it had entered the Top 100 on May 9th, 1965 at position #67 and spent 14 weeks on the chart...
    And at the time it was also at #1 on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart; it had reached the top spot on May 30th, 1965 and remained there for 9 weeks.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 11th 1965, the Byrds performed "Mr. Tambourine Man" on the NBC-TV program 'Hullabaloo'; this also marked their debut appearance on national television...
    Two days earlier on May 9th, 1965 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #87...
    The same week it entered the Top 100, the Four Tops also entered the chart at #67 with "I Can't Help Myself"; and that would be the record that preceded and then succeeded "Mr. Tambourine" at #1 on the Top 100.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 8th 1980, Bonnie Pointer performed a covered version of "I Can't Help Myself" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Her version had entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart on December 16th, 1979 at position #86; and eight weeks later on February 10th, 1980 it peaked at #40 {for 2 weeks} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    As a solo artist she had two more records make the Top 100 chart; "Free Me from Freedom" {at #58 in 1979} and "Heaven Must Have Sent You" {reached #11 in 1979}...
    Between 1973 and 1975 she was a member of the Pointer Sisters, and during that time the quartet had six Top 100 records…
    Patricia Eva 'Bonnie' Pointer will celebrate her 65th birthday in four months on July 11th {2015}.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdThere was, back then, a kind of running, but friendly, "feud" between the Four Tops and the Temptations, for the thin air at the top of the R&B and Pop charts. It's hard to imagine a contest that could have been better for the ears of music-lovers!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn 1965 the word can't appeared in three of the Top 10 song titles of that year. According to Billboard's Year-End chart of the Top 100 Songs of 1965, No. 1 was "I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones, No. 2 was "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" by The Four Tops, and finally No. 8 was "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" by Herman's Hermits!!! Copy & paste: http://www.musicoutfitters.com/topsongs/1965.htm
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyHit #1 on June 19th, 1965 and stayed there for one week; then 'Mr. Tambourine Man" by The Byrds became #1 for one week. But the Four Tops reclaimed the top spot and held it for another week, for a total of two weeks at #1!!!
  • George from Louisville, KyYou got the moves and you got the sounds. You took me home just one more time and I thank you.
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumLevi Stubbs had really a beautiful voice. He isn't there any more but I will continue to listen to the wonderful songs of the Four Tops.
    "I can't help myself, nooo,I can't help myself".
  • Jay from Brooklyn, NyRIP Levi Stubbs. You will be missed. 10-17-08
  • Kristin from Bessemer, AlThis song is featured in the 1975 American International picture "Cooley High", starring Glynn Turman.
  • Andre from The Bronx, NySuper strong-voiced Levi Stubbs with the backing of the powerful Tops makes "I Can't Help Myself" one of the best of all Motown songs. Likewise for the great follow-up "It's The Same Old Song (But With A Different Meaning Since You've Been Gone) also written and produced by the superb Holland-Dozier-Holland (HDH)!!! - AnDre
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumI love The Four Tops very much and this song is my favorite; it's true that it carries so much emotion and it also has a good beat. I would like to hear more often their songs on the radio.
  • Mike from Germantown, MdThis song is currently being used to advertise Papa John's Pizza's Desserts.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyMost people call this song "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch". In fact, that's how it was referenced in the "shout out" in George Harrison's "This Song" in 1976.

  • Paul from Flagstaff, Azthis is an awesome song. Very underated. The four tops are solid. Just a great band. lots of soul.
  • Sammy from New York, NyThis song is my favorite of the Four Tops. It's rare when a song that carries so much emotion can make you move uncontrollably! Seriously though, I absolutely adore this song. Everyone should listen to more Four Tops, they were a very influential soul/R&B band. I can't help myself! Noooooooo, I can't help myself!
  • Lola from Sydney, Australiathis song rocks.....
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