The song's lyrics depict a man's excessive desire for and jealousy over his girlfriend.
The song reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was The Four Tops's final Top 10 hit of the 1960s. On the soul chart, "Bernadette" went to number three. It also reached #8 in the UK.
The song is notable for its false ending, where the instruments drop out and the background singers hold a chord. The lead singer then shouts "Bernadette" and the song resumes, ending in a fade-out. Critic Maury Dean described the effectiveness of Stubb's shout of "BERNADETTE!!!" as being the key ingredient in getting listeners to buy the record, even if Bernadette herself may not have heard him.
Allmusic critic John Bush calls it "dramatic" and "impassioned."