One morning in 1967, Robinson and Cleveland were shopping at Hudson's, a Detroit department store. Robinson found a set of pearls for his wife, Claudette. "They're beautiful." he said to the salesperson. "I sure hope she likes them." Cleveland then added "I second that emotion." Both songwriters laughed at Cleveland's malapropism; he had meant to say "I second that motion." The two were immediately inspired to write a song using the incorrect phrase.
The Miracles' original version of the song finds lead singer and co-writer Smokey Robinson courting a girl who, weary of the game of love, prefers to string her men along and not get romantically involved. Robinson "wants no part" in such a relationship, but promises that if the girl changes her mind, he'll be around ("If you feel like lovin' me/if you've got the notion/I second that emotion.")
This version peaked for three weeks in the United States at #4 on the Billboard pop singles chart in December 1967. It became the Miracles highest charting popular single since "Shop Around". In this song, guitarists Eddie Willis and Robert White came up with their own guitar licks and riffs for this song based on a chord chart that was given to them by the song's producers (this is a classic example of the creativity the Funk Brothers brought to the table during the recording sessions they participated in at the Snake Pit).
The song also topped the BillboardBlack Singles Chart and was a million-selling hit for The Miracles, their sixth overall. The song was also a top 30 hit in the UK in 1967, reaching #27,
Barbara McNair recorded the song for the intended, but ultimately not released album Barbara McNair Sings Smokey in 1968 (her version was unreleased until 2003) as well as by British singer Kiki Dee on her 1970 Motown album Great Expectations.
The song was covered by the English new wave band Japan in 1979. Initially unsuccessful, it was later rereleased and became a UK Top 10 hit in 1982.
On 18 June 2012, American Songwriter named "I Second That Emotion" its "Lyric of The Week". The publication wrote: the song "marches to the beat of its own drum, thanks to three stanzas of crafty doo-wop poetry and one punny one-liner—a malapropism, if you want to get technical—that never really loses its novelty appeal".