The song is about cheating, with the singer apologizing for stepping out his girl and letting her know that he's all torn up about it. Robinson insists it isn't autobiographical.
When Smokey Robinson appeared on American Idol in 2009, he said that this song came about by accident. The Miracles used to sing a medley of love songs on stage, and at the end of the medley (a song called "Please Say You Want Me" by the Schoolboys) he broke off into singing "ooh, baby baby." The Miracles were so in tune that the other members started harmonizing with him, and the crowd went crazy. They incorporated this bit into their live act, then used it as the basis for the song when they decided to record it.
Smokey Robinson wrote this with fellow Miracle Pete "Warren" Moore. It is now considered the Miracles' signature song.
According to the Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs, "Robinson called this ballad his 'National anthem,' noting, 'Wherever we go, it's the one song that everybody asks for.'"
This is one of the most confusingly credited songs of all time; the title sometimes appears as "Ooo Baby Baby" instead of "Ooh Baby Baby," and the group alternately listed as The Miracles or Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. We've even seen a demo 45 where the song is listed as "Oo Baby Baby."
On most compilation albums, the song is listed as "Ooo Baby Baby."
It is officially published as "Ooh Baby Baby," with the alternate titles covering all the permutations:
"Oh Baby Baby"
"Ooo Baby Baby"
"Oo Baby Baby"
Linda Ronstadt, who also covered the Miracles song "The Tracks Of My Tears," released a version of this song that went to #7 US in 1979. The Five Stairsteps also charted with the song, taking it to #63 US in 1967. Other popular versions are by Shalimar, Sylvester and Ella Fitzgerald.
John Lennon, a huge fan of American soul music, copped the "I'm Crying" line in "I Am The Walrus" from the refrain in this song.
Lenny Kravitz covered the song for his 2014 Strut album. Kravitz told The Daily Telegraph that he rarely does covers, but an unexpected blast of this tune left him wanting to record it. "One morning early I was having my make up done for Hunger Games and the make-up artist was listening to a Motown station and it came on," he said. "I hadn't heard it for a long time (and) it sounded so beautiful."
The best known of the small list of covers recorded by Kravitz is his version of The Guess Who's "American Woman," which he did for the movie Austin Powers 2, The Spy Who Shagged Me.