This was the first Temptations song recorded with new lead singer Dennis Edwards. David Ruffin, their original leader, was fired after he missed a gig. Ruffin became very difficult to work with when Motown refused to bill the group as "David Ruffin and The Temptations," as they had done with "Diana Ross and The Supremes."
This was a new sound for The Temptations. It was a kind of psychedelic funk similar to Sly & the Family Stone, rather than the smooth Soul they were known for. Many people did not think this was The Temptations when they heard it.
The lyrics could be interpreted to be about drugs, which would go against The Temptations clean-cut image. They knew Whitfield and Strong didn't do drugs, however, so they didn't have a problem with the lyrics.
This was the first Motown song to use a wah-wah pedal. A white guitarist named Dennis Coffey brought it to a Motown workshop and played it for Whitfield while he was arranging this song. Whitfield loved the way it worked and had Coffey join the Motown house band when they recorded the track.
Whitfield used Coffey on many more sessions, including the seminal track "War." Coffey, who had a hit on his own with "Scorpio," considers his work on "Cloud Nine" some of his best. "It's kicking major ass," he told Songfacts. "That groove was so funky it's amazing."
Whitfield and Strong wrote this shortly after the songwriting team of Holland/Dozier/Holland left Motown. Holland/Dozier/Holland wrote many of the hits for the label, so it was a big boost for Motown when Whitfield and Strong stepped up and wrote another hit.
The week after this was released, Motown head Berry Gordy released Marvin Gaye's version of "Heard It Through The Grapevine," which until then he refused to release because he did not think it was a hit.
This was the first Motown song to win a Grammy. It won for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance By A Duo Or Group, Vocal Or Instrumental in 1968.
Dorian from Los AngelesThis song is absolutely about drugs, heroin specifically. I can't see any other reasonable explanation for the lyrics.
Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 29th 1968, "Cloud Nine" by the Temptations peaked at #6 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 10th and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100... It reached #2 on the Billboard's R&B Singles chart... The Temp's record that succeeded on the Top 100, "Run Away Child, Running Wild", also peaked at #6 and also stayed on the Top 100 for 12 weeks, but on the R&B chart it reached one position higher, it peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) on March 22nd, 1968.
Randy from Fayettevile, ArI was in the Army at Fort Bragg, NC when this was in the Top Ten of many charts (Goldmine, Song Hits, Billboard, etc.) in 1968. After the song entered the Top Ten in 1968, I recall reading an article in "Song Hits" with Norm Whitfield & Barrett Strong about the lyrics. They insisted it was not about drugs, but about being high on life & opportunity. I thought it so unusual, because I thought it was about drugs as the song was climbing the charts. Go figure!! Anyhow, I loved the song. At the time, I heard about the controversy over David Ruffin being fired at Motown for being "difficult" and substance abuse allegations. Say what you will about him, he was extremely talented & creative. However, consider too that Motown VIPs were known industry-wide for unethical behavior toward their recording stars. Hearing "Cloud Nine" now brings back some good memories & some bad memories of those times of the late Sixties.
Lucy from Palatine, IlI just finished watching American Gangster starring Denzel Washington for the 5th time. The same day I heard the song Cloud Nine on the radio. It was the first time I associated the song with drugs; it all made sense after seeing the movie.
Barry from Sauquoit, NyAlso in 1969 Mongo Santamaria released an instrumental version of 'Cloud Nine', it peaked at No. 32...
Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThat this was an (anti, really) drug lyric was taken for granted at the time. Specifically, I think, marijuana. As Marina said, it's about drug use to alleviate pain and suffering. I don't assume all songs are about drugs, either, but I recognize a drug lyric when I hear it.
Kristin from Bessemer, AlI guess to Whitfield/Strong, "Cloud Nine" could be whatever you want it to be, it doesnt necessarily have to be about drugs- or else artists like Edwin Starr and Gladys Knight and the Pips wouldnt have recorded cover versions of it.
Marina from Seattle, WaI'm not really the type to assume that all songs are about drugs, but...it really seems that this song is. When people lead difficult lives, they often turn to drugs to help them escape. Of course it's possible Whitfield and Strong intended it to be about something else but they must have known that people were going to immediately assume the song was about drugs.