"Cloud Nine" is a 1968 hit single recorded by The Temptations for the Motown label. It was the first of their singles to feature Dennis Edwards instead of David Ruffin in the lineup, was the first of producer Norman Whitfield's psychedelic soul tracks, and won Motown its first Grammy Award. The song was written by Whitfield and former Motown artist Barrett Strong.
In 1968, psychedelic rock band Sly & the Family Stone had a hit with their single "Dance To The Music", and Temptations member Otis Williams introduced Norman Whitfield to the band's music. At first, Whitfield didn't want to produce anything with such a radically different sound. "I don't want to get into all that crazy shit," he said. "That ain't nothing but a little passing fancy." Within a few weeks, however, he had created the backing tracks for the newest Temptations single, a psychedelic-styled number called "Cloud Nine", and stuck primarily to such songs well into the early 1970s.
Featuring all five Temptations trading lead vocals à la The Family Stone, "Cloud Nine" was a marked departure from the standard Tempts sound: wah-wah guitars and a harder, driving beat propelled the record, as opposed to pianos and strings. The lyrics for the song were about the struggles and pains of living poor, as opposed to being about relationship and love troubles. The broke, unemployed, and despondant main character in the song proclaims that he gets over all of his problems by "riding high on 'cloud nine'". This has been interpreted by many as a reference to drug abuse, although Whitfield, Strong, and The Temptations deny that "Cloud Nine" is about drugs.
"Cloud Nine" won Motown its first Grammy Award in 1969 for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental, reached #2 in the U.S. R&B chart and #6 in the U.S. Pop chart, and led the way for the Temptations' full-blown venture into psychedelia, with increasingly eclectic and socio-political-themed records, including "Runaway Child, Running Wild", "Psychedelic Shack", and "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World is Today)", following within the coming two years.
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