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,
The song was later covered by English New Wave band Japan which also proved a commercial success in the United Kingdom, climbing to #9 in the UK Singles Chart in July 1982. The Jerry Garcia Band frequently covered the song in concert, and the Grateful Dead also performed it in concert. Part of the song was also used by the band Sublime at the end of "S.T.P." on the album Robbin' the Hood as a homage, though not covered in full.
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".
Episode 2 of the 2004 BBC miniseries Blackpool featured the Miracles version, accompanied onscreen by the characters singing and dancing, as part of the story.
An episode of the TV Series Futurama references this song when a robot comments " I second that emotion."