Before I wrote this piece, I decided to check out the Wikipedia page for “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”. Seems like me and the Wiki editors were on the same page, as Motown’s legendary Quality Control meetings were on both our minds.
Back in the day, Motown founder/CEO Berry Gordy Jr. used to have meetings with his writer/producers in which they would check out new material and deem it worthy or unworthy of release. The Wikipedia entry for “Beg” states that the song was turned down twice until producer Norman Whitfield went back into the studio, and had David Ruffin sing the lyrics an octave higher than usual. This results in the desperate-sounding vocal you hear on the final recording.
I’m going to assume that at the next Quality Control meeting, Norman played the song and everybody there was like
If David sang this song to me, I feel like there would be two options. 1) Call the police or 2) take him back. He literally sounds deranged in love. (“IF I HAVE TO CRY TO KEEP YOU…I DON’T MIND WEEPIN’”) Add in The Tempts’ harmonies and the amazing Funk Brothers (who cooked on every ‘60s Temptations hit) and…LAWD.
According to folklore (and Wikipedia), this was the song that supplanted Smokey Robinson as The Temptations’ main producer, leading to a half decade of Whitfield-helmed smashes.