I was in a grocery store one afternoon, half listening to the piped-in music while shopping. It was the going-home-hour, approaching 6:00 in the evening, so the store was fairly busy with people picking up odds and ends for the night’s dinner.
Suddenly, there came across the overhead speakers one of the more famous, understated openings in pop music: the 9-second introduction of “My Girl.”
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE LYRICS
It’s never been particularly unusual to hear “My Girl” in public places in America. No surprise, then, that everyone in the store that day seemed to know the song.
In one aisle, I heard a female voice sing, cloudy day….
In another, a person of indeterminate gender: all the riches….
Two more aisles down was a harmonizing couple: would make….
I noticed as the other singers and I–yes, me too, though perhaps a bit softer than most–I noticed no visible commonality among us. In those aisles, the song was performed by people of varying ages, genders, ethnicities, style, colors, accents, dispositions, and so on and so forth.
Oblivious to the external world, those of us in that store sang or hummed from the heart in free-flowing, 15-part harmony without apparent regard for difference. Though securely wrapped in our own private worlds, we were, nevertheless, to borrow lyrics from “Camelot,” united “for one brief shining moment.”
A LASTING TREASURE
Fittingly, “My Girl” was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2017 (https://bit.ly/2ugpa5K). Among other criteria, songs selected for this honor must be “culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States” (https://bit.ly/2pIJ0SN).
“My Girl” is all of that and more: It is a unifying agent without even trying to be one, in contrast, for instance, to our “Star Spangled Banner,” a national anthem which, regrettably, fails in that regard. Whether it’s the universality of love, the sweet harmony of the Temptations’ original rendition, the song’s timelessness, or some other, indefinable quality, “My Girl” has earned its place in the national and international psyche. Regardless of what else happens, as long as music is passed down from generation to generation, we’ll always have “My Girl.”