"Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" is a song by American
soul group The Temptations. Released on the Gordy (Motown) label, and
produced by Norman Whitfield, it features on the group's 1971 album,
Sky's the Limit. When released as a single, "Just My Imagination"
became the third Temptations song to reach number one on the US
Billboard Hot 100. The single held the number one position on the
Billboard Pop Singles Chart for two weeks in 1971, from March 27 to
April 10. "Just My Imagination" also held the number-one spot on the
Billboard R&B Singles chart for three weeks, from February 27 to
March 20 of that year.
Today, "Just My Imagination" is considered one of the Temptations'
signature songs, and is notable for recalling the sound of the group's
1960s recordings. It is also the final Temptations single to feature
Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. During the process
of recording and releasing the single, Kendricks left the group to
begin a solo career, while the ailing Williams was forced to retire
from the act for health reasons. In 2004,
Rolling Stone magazine
listed "Just My Imagination" as number 389 on its list of the 500
Greatest Songs of All Time.
1 Composition and lyrics
4 Release and reception
5 Chart performance
5.1 Weekly singles charts
5.2 Year-end charts
8 Further reading
9 External links
Composition and lyrics
A full orchestral arrangement with strings and French horns adorning a
bluesy rhythm track and bass line provides the instrumentals. Music
Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of allmusic notes that the song is
narrated by a man who imagines a relationship with the woman he loves
but is canny enough to realize that his daydreams are fiction, yet is
overwhelmed by them. The lyrics capture his resignation to his
fantasies. The song as a whole captures their full emotional effect on
him. The first two verses establish the theme and explore the
narrator's daydreams, in which he and the object of his affections are
lovers preparing to be married, to "raise a family" and build "a cozy
little home / out in the country / with two children, maybe three." In
the bridge, the narrator prays that he will never lose her love to
another, or he will surely die." By introducing this doubt, the
musical bridge simultaneously bridges the movement from dream to
reality, completed when the final lines shift from imagery to bald
statement: "But in reality / she doesn't even know me." For Erlewine,
"the Temptations' performance has a dream-like quality, quietly
drifting through the singer's hopes and desires." We must add that
just as the lyrics track the movement from dream to reality, the
chorus goes on to anchor the drifting melody in a robust and highly
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, producer/composer Norman
Whitfield and lyricist
Barrett Strong crafted a string of "psychedelic
soul" tracks for the Temptations. By 1970, the Temptations had
released psychedically-influenced hits such as "Runaway Child, Running
Wild", "Psychedelic Shack", "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World
Is Today)", and the Grammy Award-winning "Cloud Nine". In a 1991
Eddie Kendricks recalled that many of the Temptations' fans
were "screaming bloody murder" after the group delved into
psychedelia, and demanded a return to their original soul sound.
"Just My Imagination" was the result of one of the few times that
Whitfield relented and produced a ballad as a single for the group.
Whitfield and Strong wrote the song in 1969, but with the Temptations'
psychedelic soul singles consistently keeping them in the US Top 20,
Whitfield and Strong decided to shelve the composition and wait for
the right time to record it. In late 1970, the Temptations' single
"Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World)", a psychedelic soul song about
world peace, failed to reach the Top 30, and Whitfield decided to
record and release "Just My Imagination" as the next single. He
approached Barrett Strong, and asked him to pull out "that song we
were messing around with a year ago... because I'm going to record it
today." Except their late 1960s duets with Diana Ross & the
Supremes, the Temptations had not released a single that was not based
in psychedelia since "Please Return Your Love to Me" from The
Temptations Wish It Would Rain in 1968.
Norman Whitfield began the recording of "Just My Imagination" by
preparing the song's instrumental track. Whitfield arranged and
recorded the non-orchestral elements of the instrumental with Motown's
studio band, The Funk Brothers, who for this recording included Eddie
"Chank" Willis on guitar, Jack Ashford on marimba,
Jack Brokensha on
timpani, Andrew Smith on drums, and
Bob Babbitt on bass. Jerry Long,
an arranger who had previous experience with scoring films in Paris,
worked on the orchestral arrangement and conducted several members of
the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra in performing the horns and strings for
The Temptations had heard the Funk Brothers' tracks and
loved them, but were "totally knocked out," according to Otis
Williams, when they heard "the finished record with all the
The Temptations added their vocals at Motown's Hitsville USA
headquarters. While all five Temptations usually sang lead on singles
during the psychedelic soul era, "Just My Imagination" is primarily a
showcase for Eddie Kendricks, who sang lead on such Temptations hits
as "Get Ready," "The Way You Do the Things You Do," and "You're My
Everything"; in fact, this is the only Temptations hit in which Dennis
Edwards did not have a lead vocal during his entire tenure with the
The Temptations remained at Hitsville overnight recording "Just
My Imagination," and while the other four members went home at six
o'clock in the morning, Kendricks remained in the studio, spending
several additional hours recording takes for his lead vocal.
The song was recorded in the midst of a bitter feud between Kendricks
and the Temptations' de facto leader, Otis Williams. Dissatisfied and
frustrated with Williams' leadership, Kendricks began to withdraw from
the group, and picked several fights with either Williams or his best
friend, bass singer Melvin Franklin. When Kendricks told his friend
David Ruffin about his problems in the group, Ruffin
convinced Kendricks that he should begin a solo career. After a final
altercation during a November 1970 Copacabana engagement, both
Kendricks and Williams agreed that it would be best for Kendricks to
leave the group. By the time "Just My Imagination" was recorded,
Williams and Kendricks were no longer on friendly speaking terms.
Nevertheless, Williams was impressed by Kendricks' performance on the
recording, and in his 1988 Temptations biography referred to "Just My
Imagination" as "Eddie's finest moment."
Paul Williams, the Temptations' original lead singer and Kendricks'
lifelong best friend, who sings the first line in the bridge ("Every
night, on my knees, I pray..."), had suffered for three years from
health problems related to alcoholism and sickle-cell disease. By the
time "Just My Imagination" was cut, Paul Williams' contributions to
the Temptations' recordings had been reduced, and the group had Otis
Williams' old associate
Richard Street lined up as Paul Williams'
replacement. As for Kendricks, he was eventually replaced by Damon
Harris, who would be featured in the group's 1973 hit "Papa Was a
Release and reception
Motown released "Just My Imagination" as a single on their Gordy label
on January 14, 1971, with the up-tempo psychedelic soul song "You Make
Your Own Heaven and Hell Right Here on Earth", from the 1970
Psychedelic Shack LP, as the B-side.
The Temptations performed "Just
My Imagination" and "Get Ready" for their final appearance on The Ed
Sullivan Show, broadcast live on January 31. On-screen, Kendricks
stood several feet away from the other Temptations, and made little
eye contact with them;
Otis Williams later remarked that one could see
the group was no longer a complete unit:
But there was such a bittersweet feeling. Eddie had really changed.
Paul was on his last legs. Watch the clip of us doing the song on Ed
Sullivan we're not together. Eddie is off by himself. There was no
more group. Sure enough, when we played the Copa that week, Eddie left
between shows. He didn't come back.
On February 7, 1971, "Just My Imagination" entered the U.S. Billboard
Hot 100 chart at number 71 and later number one on both the Hot 100
and the U.S. Billboard R&B Singles charts. It also became the
group's first entry on the
Adult Contemporary chart, reaching number
33; the group would not return to that chart until 1984.
The single was included along with "Unite the World" on the
Temptations' ninth regular studio album, Sky's the Limit, which
included the final Temptations recordings to feature Eddie Kendricks.
He began working on his solo album All By Myself shortly before
officially leaving the group.
The intended follow-up to "Just My Imagination" was "Smiling Faces
Sometimes", on which Kendricks sang lead. When Kendricks left, they
released, instead, "I'm The Exception to the Rule", a song in the same
vein (featuring Kendricks,
Otis Williams and Edwards on lead) which
follows "Just My Imagination" on the album. Unable to promote the song
because they did not have anyone to do his parts in concert, the song
failed miserably so the company pushed the "B-side" – the group's
re-recording of "It's Summer", initially the B-side of "Ball of
Confusion", at the last-minute, and
Norman Whitfield had The
Undisputed Truth record "Smiling Faces Sometimes", for whom it was a
The Temptations and
Norman Whitfield returned to
psychedelic soul for their next album, Solid Rock, whose second
single, "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)", was written
by Whitfield and
Barrett Strong as an alleged criticism of both
Kendricks and David Ruffin.
Weekly singles charts
U.S. Billboard Hot 100
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary
U.S. Billboard R&B
U.S. Cash Box Top 100
U.S. Billboard Hot 100
U.S. Cash Box
U.S. R&B/Soul (Billboard)
^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004.
Record Research. p. 572.
^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Just My Imagination (Running Away with
Me)". allmusic. Retrieved 2008-11-07. .
^ Eder, Bruce. "
Norman Whitfield > Biography". allmusic. Retrieved
^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "
The Temptations > Biography". allmusic.
^ Audio interview with
Eddie Kendricks and
David Ruffin Archived
2010-02-12 at the Wayback Machine., recorded in 1991 in the United
Kingdom. Retrieved on September 28, 2005. When asked several times
about the Temptations' psychedelic records, Kendricks asserts that
having the group record psychedelic soul was wholly "the producer's
[Norman Whitfield's] idea", and that by 1970, "the fans were screaming
bloody murder", and demanding a return "to what we do best".
^ a b Bronson 2003
^ Williams & Romanowski 2002, p. 151
^ Williams & Romanowski 2002, p. 150
^ Williams, Otis and Weinger, Harry (2002). My Girl: The Very Best of
the Temptations [CD liner notes]. New York: Motown/Universal Records.
^ Bronson, Fred (October 9, 2008). "Chart Beat". Billboard. Retrieved
^ Canada RPM 100 Singles, April 3, 1971
^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
^ "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". Musicoutfitters.com.
^ Billboard. Books.google.com. 1971-12-25. p. 15. Retrieved
Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard
Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.).
New York: Billboard. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6. .
Crandall, Bill; et al. (December 9, 2004). "500 Greatest Songs of All
Rolling Stone (963): 65–163. Retrieved 2008-11-07. .
EBSCO subscription required for online access.)
Williams, Otis; Romanowski, Patricia (2002). Temptations (Revised
ed.). Lanham, MD: Cooper Square. ISBN 0-8154-1218-5. .
"Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)". Super Seventies
Rocksite!. Retrieved 2008-11-07. .
Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
"Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
April 3, 1971 (two weeks)
"Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night
"Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" by Johnnie Taylor
Billboard's Best Selling Soul Singles number one single
March 6, 1971 (three weeks)
"What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye
Barrington "Bo" Henderson
G. C. Cameron
Meet the Temptations
The Temptations Sing Smokey
The Temptin' Temptations
The Temptations with a Lot o' Soul
The Temptations Wish It Would Rain
Sky's the Limit
Song for You
Wings of Love
The Temptations Do the Temptations
Hear to Tempt You
Back to Basics
Truly for You
To Be Continued...
The Temptations in a Mellow Mood
For Lovers Only
Back to Front
Live at the Copa
Live at London's
Talk of the Town
The Temptations in Japan
Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations
The Temptations Show
The Temptations Christmas Card
Give Love at Christmas
Lost and Found:
You've Got to Earn It (1962–1968)
Greatest Hits II
Emperors of Soul
The Ultimate Collection
My Girl: The Very Best of the Temptations
(US/UK Top 10)
"Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
"Beauty Is Only Skin Deep"
"(I Know) I'm Losing You"
"All I Need"
"You're My Everything"
"I Wish It Would Rain"
"I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)"
"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me"
"Run Away Child, Running Wild"
"I Can't Get Next to You"
"Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)"
"Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)"
"Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"
"Let Your Hair Down"
"Treat Her Like a Lady"
"My Girl" (reissue)
The Temptations (miniseries)
The Undisputed Truth
The Temptations singles discography
"Oh Mother of Mine" (1961)
"Check Yourself" (1961)
"(You're My) Dream Come True" (1962)
"Mind Over Matter (I'm Gonna Make You Mine)" (1962)
"I Want a Love I Can See" (1963)
"Farewell My Love" (1963)
"The Way You Do the Things You Do" (1964)
"I'll Be in Trouble" (1964) / "The Girl's Alright with Me" (1964)
"Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" (1964)
"My Girl" (1964)
"It's Growing" (1965)
"Since I Lost My Baby" (1965) / "You've Got to Earn It" (1965)
"My Baby" (1965) / "Don't Look Back" (1965)
"Get Ready" (1966)
"Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (1966)
"Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" (1966)
"(I Know) I'm Losing You" (1966)
"All I Need" (1967)
"You're My Everything" (1967) / "I've Been Good To You" (1967)
"(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It's You That I Need" (1967)
"I Wish It Would Rain" (1968) / "I Truly, Truly Believe" (1968)
"I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" (1968)
"Please Return Your Love to Me" (1968)
"Cloud Nine" (1968)
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1968) / "Silent Night" (1968)
"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (1969)
"Runaway Child, Running Wild" (1969)
"I'll Try Something New" (1969)
"Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down" (1969)
"I Second That Emotion" (1969)
"I Can't Get Next to You" (1969)
"The Weight" (1969)
"Psychedelic Shack" (1970)
"Why (Must We Fall in Love)" (1970)
"Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" (1970)
"Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World)" (1970) / "Hum Along and Dance"
"Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" (1971)
"It's Summer" (1971)
"Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)" (1971)
"Take a Look Around" (1972)
"Mother Nature" (1972) / "Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On" (1972)
"Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (1972)
"Plastic Man" (1973)
"Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)" (1973)
"Law of the Land" (1973)
"Let Your Hair Down" (1973)
"You've Got My Soul on Fire" (1974)
"Happy People" (1974)
"Shakey Ground" (1975)
"Keep Holdin' On" (1976)
"Up the Creek (Without a Paddle)" (1976)
"Who are You (and What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life)" (1976)
"In a Lifetime" (1977)
"Think for Yourself" (1977)
"Bare Back" (1978)
"Ever Ready Love" (1978)
"Struck By Lightning Twice" (1980)
"Aiming At Your Heart" (1981)
"Oh What A Night" (1981)
"Standing On The Top - Pt. 1" (1982)
"More On The Inside" (1982)
"Money's Hard To Get" (1982)
"Love On My Mind Tonight" (1983)
"Surface Thrills" (1983)
"Miss Busy Body (Get Your Body Busy)" (1983)
"Sail Away" (1984)
"Treat Her Like a Lady" (1984)
"My Love Is True (Truly For You)" (1985)
"How Can You Say That It's Over" (1985)
"Do You Really Love Your Baby" (1985)
"Deeper Than Love" (1985)
"Touch Me" (1986)
"I'm Fascinated" (1986)
"A Fine Mess" (1986)
"My Girl" (re-issue) (1986)
"Lady Soul" (1986)
"To Be Continued..." (1986)
"I Wonder Who She's Seeing Now" (1987)
"Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (re-issue) (1987)
"Look What You Started" (1987)
"Do You Wanna Go With Me" (1988)
"All I Want From You" (1989)
"Soul to Soul" (1990)
"One Step At A Time (Remix)" (1990)
Motown Song" (1991)
"The Jones" (1991)
"My Girl" (re-issue) (1992)
"Hoops of Fire" (1992)
"Error of Our Ways" (1994)
"Silent Night" (1995)
"This is My Promise" (1998)
"How Could He Hurt You" (1999)
"I'm Here" (2000)
Boyz II Men
Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya
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Motown: Hitsville USA
The Remix Collection
The Ballad Collection
Legacy: The Greatest Hits Collection
The Millennium Collection: The Best of Boyz II Men
"It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday"
"Please Don't Go"
"End of the Road"
"In the Still of the Nite (I'll Remember)"
"Let It Snow"
"I'll Make Love to You"
"On Bended Knee"
"Water Runs Dry"
"One Sweet Day"
"4 Seasons of Loneliness"
Song for Mama"
"Doin' Just Fine"
"I Will Get There"
"Pass You By"
"Thank You in Advance"
"The Color of Love"
"Relax Your Mind"
"What You Won't Do for Love"
"The Tracks of My Tears"
"Just My Imagination"
"Mercy Mercy Me"
"I Can't Make You Love Me"
"If You Leave Me Now"
The Package Tour
Total Package Tour