The smash success of that song, according to Motown policy, automatically gave Holland-Dozier-Holland the green light to write and produce the Miracles' next release, which resulted in this song. Like "Mickey's Monkey", "I Gotta Dance to Keep from Crying" features a "live party" feel. The song's title is a play on the old expression, "I Gotta Laugh to Keep from Crying", highlighting the all-too-human tendency to escape from heartbreak or personal pain by dancing, laughing and having a good time. Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, as the song's narrator, portrays a young man trying to get over the heartbreak of a recent breakup with his girl: "Gather 'round me, swingers and friends...help me forget my hurt within...I lost the only girl I've ever loved...the only one I'm thinking of...and I've gotta dance to keep from crying..." Holland-Dozier-Holland later went on to write another Top 20 hit for the Miracles in 1966, "(Come 'Round Here) I'm the One You Need", which was the last song to bill the group as "The Miracles" before their name was officially changed to "Smokey Robinson and the Miracles". "I Gotta Dance to Keep from Crying" has inspired cover versions by The Who and Jimmy James, and was included on the group's albums The Miracles Doin' Mickey's Monkey, I Like It Like That (withdrawn from the U.S.), Greatest Hits from the Beginning, and several other Miracles "greatest hits" albums and CD anthologies.
The song was ranked Number 356 out of the 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made by the American rock critic Dave Marsh, who wrote: "no band ever cut a deeper groove than the Motown group does here". The British rock journalist Jon Wilde ranked it Number 6 among his top ten favourite songs in 2007, calling it "pure Motown gold and the greatest party-on record there ever was".