Remember When The Temptations Scored a Chart-Topping Hit with “Just My Imagination”

On April 3, 1971, “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” became The Temptations’ third single to top the Billboard Hot 100. The legendary Motown quintet had previously reached No. 1 on the chart with “My Girl” in 1965 and “I Can’t Get Next to You.”

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“Just My Imagination” was featured on The Temptations’ 14th studio album, Sky’s the Limit, which was released on April 22, 1971. Nearly all of the tracks on the album, including “Just My Imagination,” were co-written by the Motown songwriting team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Whitfield also produced the record.

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“Just My Imagination” spent two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. It replaced Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” at No. 1 on the chart, and, in turn, was replaced by Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.”

The breezy, introspective song showcased the falsetto lead vocals of Eddie Kendricks, while Paul Williams sings the first part of the bridge. The song is sung from the perspective of a guy who admires a woman from afar and imagines he’s in a relationship with her.

[RELATED: 5 Interesting Facts About the Temptations’ Debut Album for Its 60th Anniversary]

Otis Williams on Kendricks’ Vocal Performance

In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, Temptations co-founder Otis Williams recalled that Kendricks had worked on recording his vocal part all night long, noting that Eddie had “delivered a wonderful sweet, tender, sincere performance.”

On Kendricks and Paul Williams Leaving The Temptations

Interestingly, “Just My Imagination” was the last Temptations single to feature Kendricks or Paul Williams. By the time the song had reached No. 1, Kendricks had left the group to launch a solo career. Leading up to his exit from The Temptations, he’d been feuding with Otis Williams, and he’d also been unhappy about the group’s focus on the “psychedelic sound” that had characterized most of their hits in recent years.

In January 1971, The Temptations performed “Just My Imagination” on The Ed Sullivan Show, with Kendricks seated on a piece of staging separated from the other band members. Less than two weeks later, he was out of the group.

Paul Williams, meanwhile, had been struggling with alcoholism and also was suffering from sickle-cell anemia. In April 1971, he decided to retire from the group. Damon Harris and Richard Street were brought in, respectively, to replace Kendricks and Williams.

The new Temptations lineup soon recorded what became the group’s fourth and, to date, final chart-topping Hot 100 single, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” The reached No. 1 on the tally in December 1972.

Sadly, in August 1973, Paul Williams was found dead, apparently by suicide.

A Famous U.K. Band Recorded a Cover of “Just My Imagination”

In 1978, The Rolling Stones recorded a cover of “Just My Imagination” that appeared on the band’s hit album Some Girls.

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