The story behind the Four Tops' perennial 1965 classic, "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" all begins with inspiration from an old-school Detroit player.
"I stayed with my grandmother when I was a kid," songwriter Lamont Dozier of the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team said in the behind-the-scenes video for his 2018 Reimagination album. "She owned her own home beauty shop, and when the women would come up the walkway to get their hair done, my grandfather would be pedaling around in the garden. He was a bit of a flirt, and would say, 'How you doin', sugar pie? Good morning, honey bunch.' He was one of those types of guys. My grandmother had a big bay window to the front of the house. She'd say, 'Look at that old codger - he thinks I don't see. I know what he's doing.' He was just flirting with his big smile. I'm sitting there on the porch watching this - I'm probably 11 or 12. I was like a sponge, soaking it up.
"Years later, at Motown, I'm sitting at the piano," Dozier continued. "I'd take these mind trips back to my childhood, and I'm trying to see what this piano part is telling me. Sure enough, there my grandfather is, pedaling in the garden. That memory comes to my mind's eye, and I know where the song is supposed to go. I hear him saying, 'Good morning, sugar pie. How you doin', honey bunch?' That's what started it."
Released as a single on the iconic Motown label on April 23, 1965, the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself" (the parenthetical addition came later) soared up the charts to achieve the group's first #1 on the mainstream Hot 100 chart for the week of June 19, 1965. It would be dethroned the following week by the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," but would reclaim the crown for the week of July 3, 1965. On July 10, it would fall to the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
At the end of the year, Billboard would cite the song as the #2 song of 1965. At #1: Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs' "Wooly Bully."