The Story Behind “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and How They Were Worshipped by The Beatles

William “Smokey” Robinson and his group The Matadors unsuccessfully auditioned for Jackie Wilson’s manager but caught the ear of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., who was in the room. When Gordy pressed the young singer about who wrote the songs they performed, Robinson produced a notebook filled with lyrics. Gordy was not impressed so much by the quality of the songs but by the bravado and confidence Robinson possessed. It reminded the future mogul of himself, who had experienced success as a songwriter for Jackie Wilson.

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Gordy began working with Robinson to beef up his songs and helped get some songs released. The group, who changed its name to The Miracles, released their first singles on End Records out of New York City, and then a few followed on Chess and Argo out of Chicago. When the money generated by those singles didn’t seem to match up to what was expected, Gordy informed Robinson of the way of the music business. Robinson encouraged Gordy to start his own record label where he could decide who gets paid what. Gordy borrowed $800 from his family to start Tammy Records. After discovering another label using that imprint, the name was changed to Tamla Records.

In January 1959, “Come to Me” by Marv Johnson was the first release from the new label. Robinson and Miracle member Ronnie White—billed as Ron & Bill—teamed up for the novelty song “It” as an answer to Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater.” The song failed to chart, but needless to say, Gordy and Robinson would go on to reach great heights in the music business. Tamla Records had its first success with “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong when it reached No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960.

Gordy began the imprint Motown Records in 1959, named Robinson vice president, and enjoyed some of the biggest hits of the 1960s. The Miracles released over 40 singles, both billed as a group and later as “Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.” Let’s take a look at the story behind “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.

I don’t like you
But I love you
See that I’m always
Thinking of you

Inspired by Sam Cooke

“Shop Around” was the first song by The Miracles to break through. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was followed by seven singles that failed to generate much success. Gordy believed in the songs, as they kept putting out records. When Robinson was in New York City on a business trip, he heard “Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke. The song inspired him to write “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” in his hotel room.

Oh, oh, oh,
You treat me badly
I love you madly
You’ve really got a hold on me
You’ve really got a hold on me, baby

The Recording

The Miracles entered Motown’s Studio A on October 16, 1962, and recorded the song with Robinson on lead vocal and Bobby Rogers on harmony. Robinson produced the session, and Eddie Willis and Marv Tarplin played guitar. Three months later, “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” was included on the album The Fabulous Miracles.

I don’t want you
But I need you
Don’t want to kiss you
But I need you
Oh, oh, oh

It Was Originally a B-Side

“Happy Landing” was slated to be The Miracles’ next single. The record was released on November 9, 1962, with “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” on the flip side. “Happy Landing” achieved some regional success but failed to chart nationally. Disc jockeys started picking up on the backside of the record, and it led to another million-seller. Robinson had success as a songwriter with other artists as well. “My Guy” by Mary Wells, “My Girl” by The Temptations, and “Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye are just some of them.

You do me wrong now
My love is strong now
You’ve really got a hold on me
You’ve really got a hold on me, baby
I love you, and all I want you to do
Is just hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me

The Beatles

In 1963, the Fab Four recorded “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” for their second album With the Beatles. The album also featured  other Motown hits “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Please Mr. Postman.” In The Beatles Anthology, Paul McCartney said, “ A lot of our tracks may not have been ‘cool.’ I think if we’d just been cool, we wouldn’t have made it how we did. But that was a great aspect of us. John [Lennon] would do ‘A Shot of Rhythm and Blues” or ‘You Really Got a Hold on Me’—you could call that cool.”

I want to leave you
Don’t want to stay here
Don’t want to spend
Another day here

“They Were Downright Worshipful”

Robinson wrote how he was surprised at how far his music was reaching in his autobiography, Smokey: Inside My Life. Wrote Robinson, “We found our fans there as fanatical as the dolls and dudes in Detroit. It was wonderful to learn that we were loved by people living so far away. Met The Beatles at a private club called the White Elephant. They’d already recorded “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” … They were not only respectful of us, they were downright worshipful. Whenever reporters asked them about their influences, they’d go into euphoria about Motown. I dug them, not only for their songwriting talent but their honesty.”

Oh, oh, oh, I want to split now
I just can quit now
You’ve really got a hold on me
You’ve really got a hold on me, baby
I love you, and all I want you to do
Is just hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me
You’ve really got a hold on me
You’ve really got a hold on me

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Photo by James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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