The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone

This song is just about the coolest song ever. It peaked at #1 (of course) in the Billboard 100, #14 in the UK, and #12 in Canada in 1972. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. This was the last big hit recorded in Motown’s famous Studio A, located in a two-story house in Detroit. Most of Motown’s studio work had moved to Los Angeles by then, but The Temptations still recorded in Detroit.

From Songfacts.

This was written by the Motown songwriters Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, and produced by Whitfield. It was first recorded by The Undisputed Truth, but Whitfield also had The Temptations record it, with much greater success.

The story goes that lead singer Dennis Edwards hated the song and was incensed when he heard this line since his father died on that date and he thought Norman Whitfield put that in to goad him. This tale made for good drama but was considerably overblown. Edwards’ father actually died on October third, and he was anything but a rolling stone. The elder Edwards was a minister who gave his son a good upbringing. Whitfield chose the date simply because it fits well in the song; he had no idea when Edwards’ father had died.

Both sides of the single were Grammy awards. The A-side won for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus, and the B-side took the award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance.

Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone
It was the third of September
That day I’ll always remember,
Yes, I will
‘Cause that was the day that my daddy died
I never got a chance to see him
Never heard nothin’ but bad things about him
Mama, I’m depending on you
To tell me the truth
Mama just hung her head and said, “Son,..

[Chorus:]
Papa was a rolling stone.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone.
Papa was a rolling stone, my son.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

Hey, mama!
Is it true what they say that papa never worked a day in his life?
And, mama, some bad talk goin’ round town sayin’ that papa had three outside children and another wife,
And that ain’t right
Heard them talking papa doing some store front preachin’
Talked about saving souls and all the time leechin’
Dealing in debt and stealing in the name of the Lord
Mama just hung her head and said,

[Chorus]
“Papa was a rolling stone, my son.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone.
Papa was a rolling stone.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

Hey, mama,
I heard papa called himself a “Jack Of All Trades”
Tell me is that what sent papa to an early grave?
Folks say papa would beg, borrow, steal
To pay his bills
Hey, mama,
Folks say papa never was much on thinking
Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking
Mama, I’m depending on you
To tell me the truth
Mama looked up with a tear in her eye and said, “Son,..

[Chorus]
Papa was a rolling stone (well, well…)
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone
Papa was a rolling stone
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

[Chorus]
I said, “Papa was a rolling stone (yes, he was, my son)
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone
My daddy was (papa was a rolling stone), yes, he was
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

8 thoughts on “The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone”

  1. Great song from the Temptations- one of their best I think. I’ve always thought if one of Mick’s children had ever got into the business they’d have to cover this one. Barrett Strong- he will be on The Rolling Stones Song of the Day tomorrow- Money!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol that would be perfect…
      I’m happy you started that up with the Stones…I was hoping you would do that because it was like reading the paper each morning…I wanted to see it and the Beatle songs were gone.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was either Stones or Dylan- I thought I’d go with Stones- with Dylan that might take a decade! .. I think The Temptations are kind of overlooked when they discuss great Motown acts- maybe it was because of the number of line up changes.

        Liked by 1 person

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