About The Song

Background

“Runaway Child, Running Wild” is a powerful song by The Temptations, released in 1969. The track is part of their album Cloud Nine and represents a significant shift in the group’s musical direction towards the psychedelic soul sound, heavily influenced by producer Norman Whitfield and songwriter Barrett Strong. This song is notable for its socially conscious lyrics, reflecting the turbulent times of the late 1960s, and its experimental production techniques.

The Temptations’ Evolution

The Temptations, originally formed in Detroit in 1960, were known for their smooth harmonies and polished Motown sound. However, by the late 1960s, they began to explore more complex and socially relevant themes, driven by the innovative vision of Whitfield and Strong. This period saw the group produce some of their most critically acclaimed work, including “Runaway Child, Running Wild.”

Musical Style

“Runaway Child, Running Wild” is an example of psychedelic soul, a genre that blends traditional soul music with psychedelic rock elements. The song features a mix of orchestral arrangements, rock-influenced instrumentation, and experimental studio effects.

Arrangement and Production

The song’s arrangement is intricate and layered, with a strong rhythm section, prominent bass line, and dynamic use of strings and horns. The production incorporates various sound effects, including echoes and reverb, to create a sense of tension and urgency. The track also features an extended instrumental break, highlighting the group’s willingness to push musical boundaries.

Vocal Performance

The Temptations’ vocal performance on “Runaway Child, Running Wild” is both powerful and emotive. The lead vocals, primarily delivered by Dennis Edwards, convey a sense of desperation and fear, perfectly matching the song’s theme. The background harmonies, provided by the rest of the group, add depth and intensity to the overall sound.

Lyrics

The lyrics of “Runaway Child, Running Wild” tell the story of a young boy who runs away from home, only to face the harsh realities of life on the streets. The song serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the dangers and consequences of such a decision.

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Verse 1

The opening verse sets the scene with a poignant description of the boy’s initial excitement and naivety. Lines like “You played hooky from school, and you can’t go out to play, yeah / Mama said for the rest of the week, in your room you gotta stay” depict a relatable situation that quickly escalates as the boy decides to run away.

Chorus

The chorus reinforces the song’s central message with the repeated lines “Runaway child, running wild / Better go back home where you belong.” These words emphasize the urgency and the critical nature of the boy’s situation, urging him to return home.

Verse 2

In the second verse, the lyrics delve deeper into the boy’s experiences and the harsh realities he faces. Lines like “You don’t know what to do, now you’re so afraid / There’s nobody to help you, and your friends can’t be found” highlight the loneliness and fear that come with running away.

Bridge

The bridge of the song intensifies the emotional impact, with the lead vocalist expressing a deep sense of desperation and pleading for the boy to come back home. This section underscores the gravity of the situation and the potential consequences of staying on the streets.

Cultural Impact

“Runaway Child, Running Wild” was released during a time of significant social and political upheaval in the United States. The song’s themes of youthful rebellion and the harsh realities of life resonated with many listeners, making it a poignant reflection of the era.

Chart Performance and Reception

The song was a commercial success, reaching number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. Its success helped solidify The Temptations’ reputation as innovators in the soul and R&B genres.

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Influence on Music and Culture

“Runaway Child, Running Wild” influenced many artists and contributed to the development of socially conscious music. Its blend of psychedelic and soul elements also paved the way for future experimentation within the genre.

Conclusion

“Runaway Child, Running Wild” by The Temptations is a powerful and emotionally charged song that showcases the group’s ability to tackle serious social issues through their music. With its innovative production, compelling lyrics, and outstanding vocal performances, the song remains a standout track in The Temptations’ illustrious career.

Legacy

The Temptations’ legacy as one of the greatest vocal groups in music history is further cemented by their willingness to explore new musical territories and address important social themes. “Runaway Child, Running Wild” stands as a testament to their artistic evolution and their impact on the broader musical landscape. The song continues to be celebrated for its emotional depth, musical innovation, and its reflection of the turbulent times in which it was created.

Video

Lyrics

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 🎤

You played hookie from school and you can’t go out to play, yeahMama said, for the rest of the week, in your room you gotta stay, yeahOh ho, now you feel like the whole world’s pickin’ on youBut deep down inside, you know it ain’t trueYou’re in punishment‘Cause your mother wants to raise you in the right way, yeahBut you don’t care‘Cause you already made up your mind you wanna run away yeahYou’re on your way, runaway child, running wildRunaway child running wildBetter go back home where you belongRoaming through the city going nowhere fast, you’re on your own at lastHey, it’s gettin’ late, where will you sleep?You’re gettin’ kinda hungry, you forgot to bring something to eatOh, lost with no money you start to cryBut remember, you left home wantin’ to be grown, so dry your weeping eyesSirens screamin’ down neon lighted streetsYou want your mamaRun, run, run, run, run, run, run, runAre they looking for you?You’re frightened and confusedI want my mamaRun, run, run, run, run, run, runBut she’s much too far away, she can’t hear a word you sayYou’ve heard some frightening news on the radioAbout little boys running away from homeAnd the parents don’t see them no moreYou wanna stop to hitch a ride, I knowBut your mama told you never trust a strangerAnd you don’t know which way to goStreets are dark and deserted, not a sound nor sign of lifeOh how you long to hear your mother’s voice, ’cause you’re lost and aloneBut remember, you made the choice, runaway child, running wildYou better go back home where you belongHe he he, oh, runaway child, running wildYou better go back home where you belongYou’re lost in this great big cityGo back home where you belongNot one familiar face, ain’t it a pityGo back home where you belongOh, runaway child running wildYou better go back home where you belongOh yeah, my girlMama, mama, please, come and sit here by meOh but she’s much too far away, she can’t hear a word you sayOh, you’re frightened and confused, which way will you choose

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