My Girl is arguably the definitive Motown song since it is the first one most people come up with in my completely unscientific poll of classic 60’s era soul. I Heard It Through The Grapevine came a respectably close second. But I’m focused on My Girl’s author, Smokey Robinson and his incredible songwriting talent which has produced too many gems for one post to mention. My personal favorite is You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me which I think is one of the most perfect songs ever put on record, especially that opening line where Smokey claims “I don’t like you, but I love you”. Robinson was apparently influenced by Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me when he wrote the tune and I can hear the relationship between the two songs. What I can’t believe was that You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me was a b-side to Happy Landing. How did a song listed as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll slip past Motown’s quality control onto the backside of a single that didn’t even chart? I guess that’s the one downside to pop music genius, they all sound good, so which one gets to be the single? The Tracks of My Tears is an even better song where a great line like “Although she may be cute, she’s just a substitute, Girl you’re the permanent one” may not even be the best part of the record. The National Endowment for the Arts listed Tracks at 127 on its list of 365 songs for the century.
Smokey Robinson’s voice also carries his songs to another level. Ooo Baby Baby isn’t quite on par with some of Smokey’s usual lyrical brilliance he only sings it like it is. The vocal soars with finesse but he’s sounds strong even when he’s in pain. On I Second That Emotion he has the girl’s approval this time and I swear I feel him smiling while he’s belting it out. I haven’t even got to mention Tears Of A Clown, Shop Around, Ain’t That Peculiar and other great tunes since it would only make me sound like I’m selling a K-Tel compilation but you get the idea, he’s good. During the period between 1960-76 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles had 16 Top 20 hits, roughly one every year and they accumulated over 40 R&B chart hits. Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson America’s Greatest Living Poet and I still think he might be underrated.