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The Story Behind the Songs: The Temptations

Ain't Too Proud at the Civic Center June 27 - July 2

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations follows the exciting journey of The Temptations’ career. The show features some of The Temptations’ greatest hits including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and the show’s namesake “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”


Before you see the show, learn a little bit more about the story behind the songs.

“My Girl”

What is now known as one of The Temptations greatest hits, “My Girl,” became the group’s first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1965. The song was co-written by Smokey Robinson and Ronnie White from The Miracles, another Motown group. It was David Ruffin’s first lead vocal on a single after replacing Elbridge “Al” Bryant.  Robinson wrote “My Girl” as a response to his other song “My Guy,” sung by Mary Wells. Some of the lyrics were inspired by his wife and fellow member of The Miracles, Claudette.

“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”

Prior to the release of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” Smokey Robinson was The Temptations’ main writer. However, the release of Robinson’s “Get Ready” did not live up to expectations. Norman Whitfield took over as the group’s producer and co-wrote “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” with Eddie Holland. The song tells the story of the singer who is asking his lover not to leave, even if it means he must beg.

“Just My Imagination”

In January 1971, The Temptations released “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).” Its popularity reached its peak in April of that year and topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. It was Eddie Kendricks’ last time as lead for the group. Paul Williams also left the group after the release of “Just My Imagination” as a part of the bestselling album Sky’s the Limit. The song tells the story of a man madly in love with a girl, but it is solely in his imagination. Motown writers Whitfied and Barrett Strong originally wrote the song in the late 60s, but it did not match the popular style of the time. They decided to wait a few years which turned out to be a strategic move as the song rose to No. 1.

“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”

Whitfield and Strong work together again with arranger Paul Riser to create 1972’s “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” It was the groups fourth No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song won three Grammy Awards at the 15th annual ceremony in 1973

  • Best Rhythm & Blues Song, awarded to songwriters Barrett Strong and Norman
  • Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group, Vocal or Instrumental, awardedto The Temptations
  • Best R&B Instrumental Performance, awarded to The Temptations and Paul Riser

This was The Temptations’ second time receiving an award at the ceremony. Their first Grammy was for “Cloud Nine” in 1969.

For more information about The Temptations visit their website or classic.motown.com

Tickets are still available for Ain’t Too Proud at the Des Moines Civic Center June 27 – July 2. Visit dmpa.org to purchase tickets.


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