In the five-LP publication The Motown Story, by Motown Records, Robinson explained the origin of this song in these words: "'Tracks of My Tears' was actually started by Marv Tarplin, who is a young cat who plays guitar for our act. So he had this musical thing [sings melody], you know, and we worked around with it, and worked around, and it became 'Tracks of My Tears'." Tarplin's guitar licks at the song's intro are among the most famous in pop music history.
"The Tracks of My Tears" was a number 2 hit on the BillboardR&Bchart, and it reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Belatedly released in the UK in 1969, it became a Top Ten hit that summer, reaching number 9 (the UK release was credited to "Smokey Robinson and the Miracles"). This song is considered to be among the finest recordings of The Miracles, and it sold over one million records within two years, making it The Miracles' fourth million-selling record.
"Tracks of My Tears" became a pop Top 40 hit for the third time, when the version recorded by Linda Ronstadt for her 1975 album Prisoner in Disguise, was issued as that album's second single. The single was a minor hit for Ronstadt peaking at number 25 on Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 11 on the C&W chart in tandem with its B-side: the Emmylou Harris duet: "The Sweetest Gift"), and number 42 in 1976 on the UK Singles Chart. Conversely, Ronstadt would score one of her biggest hits with her 1978 single "Ooh Baby Baby" which was a remake of the Miracles' hit single release precedent to "The Tracks of My Tears". Ronstadt and Smokey Robinson performed both "The Tracks of My Tears" and "Ooh Baby Baby" on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special broadcast on May 16, 1983.
"The Tracks of My Tears" is not among the seven Miracles' tracks to reach the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100; the highest charting pop version of the song was the 1967 cover version by Johnny Rivers which reached number 10.
In 1993, Go West reached number 16 in the UK Singles Chart with "Tracks of My Tears". In that country, after the Miracles' original had reached the UK Top Ten in 1969, the song has been a minor chart item via the Linda Ronstadt remake (number 42 in 1976) and a 1982 version by Colin Blunstone which reached number 60.