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In , the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant". The recorded version of "My Girl" was the first Temptations single to feature David Ruffin on lead vocals. Previously, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams had performed most of the group's lead vocals, and Ruffin had joined the group as a replacement for former Temptation Elbridge Bryant. While on tour as part of the Motortown Revue , a collective tour for most of the Motown roster, Smokey Robinson caught the Temptations' part of the show. For their set, the group had included a medley of soul standards, one of which, the Drifters ' " Under the Boardwalk ", was a solo spot for Ruffin.
On September 8, , the boys announced the release of their fourth album, Four , on the Today Show. On September 14, the boys announced the first single would be "Steal My Girl". On September 28th, one day prior to the official release, the song was leaked on the internet.
Versions of the song have been recorded by many artists in numerous genres, but it is most often associated with American bluegrass musician Bill Monroe and American blues musician Lead Belly , both of whom recorded very different versions of the song in the s and s. In , a version of the song by English Beat music group the Four Pennies reached the top-twenty in the United Kingdom. Like numerous other folk songs, "In the Pines" was passed on from one generation and locale to the next by word of mouth. In , a version of the song was recorded onto phonograph cylinder by a folk collector.