ELKHART — Five decades have passed since The Temptations recorded “My Girl,” but singer Otis Williams remembers that day in Detroit’s Hitsville USA studio like it was yesterday.
Williams, who started the legendary Motown group in 1961, knew the song was something special, and after The Temptations finished recording, he turned to songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson with a smile.
“I told Smokey when we finished the vocals, I said, ‘Man, I don’t know how big of a hit record this is going to be, but I have a feeling it’s going to be big,’" Williams recalled. “And sure enough, it was February of 1965, we were at the Apollo and people were congratulating us on hitting number one.”
This year marks 50 years since The Temptations released “My Girl,” and 2015 is the golden anniversary of the song claiming the top spot on the music charts. The group is playing Saturday, March 1, at the Lerner Theatre in downtown Elkhart.
Williams said Robinson, who fronted R&B pop group The Miracles, was a big part of the song’s success.
“Whenever he would come in to produce us, he had everything all laid out and he would show us the song, but he would leave room for us to add our own inflections to make the songs more personal,” Williams said. “He was a very disciplined performer, songwriter and producer, so it was always a great joy to work with Smokey.”
Known for sharp choreography and distinct harmonizations, The Temptations have recorded music that touches on a wide spectrum of genres, including soul, pop, R&B and funk, just to name a few.
“We’ve always tried to be versatile,” Williams said. “We never wanted to be pigeonholed or a one-dimensional act.”
The '60s, when the Temptations were gaining popularity, were a tumultuous time. Racial tensions were brewing, and some radio stations even refused to play music by black artists.
“But Motown came along and broke all of that,” Williams said. “There was a shift. I once saw an interview with The Beatles and they were asked, ‘Where do you guys get you inspirations from,’ and they said, ‘We grew up listening to the Chuck Berrys, the Little Richards, the James Browns and the B.B. Kings of the world.”
Decades later, Williams said songs like “My Girl,” “Just my Imagination” and “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” still resonate with music fans because of their catchy beats and timeless lyrics.
“Every woman wants to be called ‘my girl,’” he laughed.
Tickets are available for the group’s concert at the Lerner for $39.50 to 69.50 online at thelerner.com, by phone at 293-4469 and at the box office, 410 S. Main St.
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.