Just My Imagination

Album: Sky's The Limit (1971)
Charted: 8 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • The song is about a guy who is madly in love with a girl, but they're only together in his imagination. Every day, he watches her walk by his window, and in his reverie he pictures their life together. In reality, she doesn't even know him.
  • Motown writers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote "Just My Imagination" in the late '60s, but since psychedelic songs were popular at the time, they decided to wait a few years before releasing it. Whitfield pulled it out of the mothballs after the relative failure of The Temptations' "Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World)," which hit #33 in 1970 (unacceptable by their standards). Whitfield felt they needed to change direction to stay on top of the game, so he steered Temptations away from their string of socially relevant songs and had them record this airy ballad. The strategy worked, and the song rose to #1 in America.
  • Eddie Kendricks took lead vocals on this track, which ended up being his last single with the group. An original member, Kendricks left The Temptations for a solo career soon after the song was released. With his replacement, Damon Harris, the Temps landed their last big hit in 1972 with "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone," which went to #1 in the US. Kendricks had his own chart-topper in 1973 with "Keep On Truckin'."

    "Just My Imagination" was also the last song for group member Paul Williams, who sings the "Every night on my knees I pray," line. Williams remained on salary as an advisor, but was plagued with personal problems - he was separated from his wife, owed back taxes and was being treated for alcoholism. He committed suicide in 1973 at age 34. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • This was the third of four #1 hits by the Temptations. The track was released in February 1971, and took off right away, peaking at #1 in April.
  • The song was recorded at Motown's Studio A in Detroit on November 24, 1970, with strings and horns by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra overdubbed later. Guitarists on the session were Dennis Coffey and Eddie Willis. Coffey, a white Funk Brother who later had a hit with "Scorpio," explained: "I walked in that day, and Norman Whitfield had a chart. So I made up this melodic figure, and Eddie Willis made up this little answering thing to it. We had 11 of the Funk Brothers in there. The producer and arranger were the only other people there, and they kind of coaxed us toward what they were looking for. They told us when they liked a lick we came up with. And I did six songs a day that way."

    Other personnel on the track include:

    Bob Babbitt - bass
    Jack Brokensha - vibraphone
    Jack Ashford - marimba
    Andrew Smith - drums
  • The Rolling Stones covered this in 1978 for their album Some Girls. It wasn't the first time they covered a Temptations song: in 1974 they had a hit with "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," taking it to #17. That song was a good fit for the group's swaggering rock sound, but without the wistful, lovelorn feel, their take on "Just My Imagination" lost some impact.

    "It was anything but romantic," the song's writer Norman Whitfield said in More Songwriters On Songwriting. "But it did pretty good in the dollars and cents category."
  • The Temptations performed this on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 31, 1971. Instead of doing their famous choreography, they sat on steps, evoking a languid mood that reflected the tensions in the group.
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Comments: 23

  • Robin from NjPaul Williams was also suffering from sickle cell anemia and in and out of hospitals, thus, his financial problems. In order to keep working, he refused to take narcotic pain killers feeling it would dull his talent. He suffered terribly and most likely over used alcohol to self medicate the terrible pain he was in.
  • Chuck from SeattleThis sing together with the orchestration arrangement is one of the rinest and most amazing musical creations of all time. This song could have been expanded into so many movements and the story could have been told such that it would have been a timeless classic. Truly inspired, this tune is one of the best four minutes in the history of music and just keaves one wantimg more.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 30th 1980, the Temptations hosted the NBC-TV program 'The Midnight Special' and opened the show with this song.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 31st 1971, the Temptations performed "Just Imagination (Running Away With Me)" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    And on that very same day it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on March 28th, 1971 it peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 9 of those 15 weeks it was in the Top 10)...
    It entered the Top 10 at #4, stayed at #4 the following week, then moved to #3 for 1 week, next was #2 for 1 week, and finally two weeks at #1...
    On February 28th, 1971 it reached #1 (for 3 weeks) on Billboard's R&B Sngles chart...
    The Rolling Stones covered it in 1978; was track 3 on their 16th American studio album, 'Some Girls'.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyGreat song; one the greatest intros of all time!!!
    Just a good song that even the Stones version is passable...
  • David from Youngstown, OhThe Stones remade this song on their 1978 smash album, Some Girls. The Stones called the song "Imagination," and change some of the lyrics to make them more sexually suggestive. The Stones' version is superior to the Temps. The Stones also do a better "Ain't To Proud To Beg" than the Temps. But the Stones' version of "My Girl" isn't listenable.
  • David from Atlanta, GaDidn't the Stones do a cover of this?
  • George from Louisville, KyMy how I let my imagination run away with me when I hear this song. Saw the Temps at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana in the early 70's. God do me a favor and take me back just one more time.
  • Jimmy from Knox, TnThis is the best song Eddie Kendricks ever sang REST IN PEACE EDDIE
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaMan this is as good as Motown gets--what a song of perfection. Sad and evocative and poignant and SO SO beautiful!

    Thanks, Matt, Raleigh, NC for that tidbit. Interesting to listen for.
  • Laura from Hacienda Heights, CaI wrote a great comment about My Girl and I think the same comment can be used here. I simply get so emotional when I hear this song, too. I really can be anywhere -- hear the first few notes and I just shut out the world and melt. It's amazing, it really is.
  • Matt from Raleigh, NcSorry, that was Eddie Kendricks who sang lead.
  • Matt from Raleigh, NcClassic Jamerson lines - "I Was Made to Love Her", Bernadette", "What's Going on", etc. He inspired all bass players contemporaneous and those who came afterwards. Jamerson is Electric Bass 101.
  • Matt from Raleigh, NcThe orchestration in this song is unbelievable - tympani, harp, french horns, strings, etc. you can hear Paul Williams open his mouth to sing in between the 1st and 2nd lines. Such clarity and creativity in these types of recordings is sorely missed these days - and only 3 chords! An ironic farewell to both this lineup of the Temps and Motown's Detroit years, as shortly therafter, both were gone.
  • Mary from Yuma, AzI have always liked the Temptations, and this is one of my favorite. It's a very sad song, tear jerker, I guess I like those
  • Dave from Oak Park, MiYou're OK, I just equate a Motown Bass Groove on a song like "Reach Out I'll Be There" or "My Girl", that's all.

    Sorry I misunderstood...
  • Brian from Sydney, CanadaI wasn't saying that this bass line was ONE that inspired the McCartney bass. I meant that the Motown sound was the thing-this is an example of that Motown groove. Sorry if I came across unclear.
  • Dave from Oak Park, MiQUOTE: "Great song! The bass playing is that great Motown groove that inspired Paul McCartney in the mid-'60's. It changed his approach to songwriting and his own blass playing. A great song from a great singing group."

    Eh, I don't really notice anything that special about the Bass-lines on a song from NINETEEN-SEVENTY-ONE that would'a made its way into Paul McCartney's Bass Playing in the SIXTIES.

    Other than it being a "Great Song", I think that above fact is useless.
  • Brian from Sydney, CanadaGreat song! The bass playing is that great Motown groove that inspired Paul McCartney in the mid-'60's. It changed his approach to songwriting and his own blass playing. A great song from a great singing group.
  • Julie from Marquette, MiVery lovely song...how pining fo another hurts!!
  • Jay from New York, NyWho among us has not loved a person and not had that love returned? This song poignantly captures that feeling, perhaps more perfectly than any other song.
  • Clarke from Pittsburgh, PaOne of the saddest love songs ever written: it's all in his mind. "But in reality...she doesn't even know me." Heartbreaking and unforgettable.
  • Jordan from Springfeild, Arappears in the movie dicky roberts former child star
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