Prodigal Son

Album: Beggars Banquet (1968)
Play Video


  • This song was written by Robert Wilkins, a reverend who recorded Delta Blues in the 1920s and 1930s. Keith Richards enjoyed Blues music and discovered the work of Wilkins in the '60s, which is how The Stones came across this song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The Prodigal Son is a story told in the Bible about a father who has two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance early, and goes off to spend the money on hedonistic pursuits. After wasting all the money, he comes home repentant, and the father welcomes him with a feast in his honor. This doesn't go over well with the older son, who feels that he should be rewarded for good behavior, but the father stresses the value of forgiveness.
  • Robert Wilkins' original version was titled "That's No Way To Get Along." The Stones gave their version the title "Prodigal Son."
  • In 1928 Wilkins wrote another song called "Rollin' Stone."
  • This is the only cover song on Beggar's Banquet. The Rolling Stones wanted to be a Blues band when they started out, but they became more Pop-oriented soon after they formed.

Comments: 12

  • Alex from MexicoCorrect me if I'm wrong, but this is not a cover. The Stones borrowed the music, but wrote the lyrics themselves. I have listened to Rev. Robert Wilkins's original and his lyrics are completely different. Please clear this confusion.
  • Russ from Miami Springs, FlI'm gonna get slagged for this, but I don't care... Prodigal Son was the best song the Stones ever did. As was pointed out in the SongFacts above, the Stones, as did so many of the bands from this period took their inspiration from the blues; the British groups in particular were very devoted to that musical form. It may technically be a cover, but with this version Keith and Mick truly made this song their own. It's perhaps one of the simplest songs they ever did, but also one of the most powerful.
  • John from Woburn, MaIf you listen closely you can hear Brian Jones playing harmonica. By the time this album's recording commenced Brian was becoming increasingly unstabble and shunned by the rest of the group (specifically Mick and Keith).They would sometimes turn off the mic next to his guitar or simply not record his part in songs. In this case it appears that either his part was played too far away form a mic to be sufficiently audible or the intentionally mixed his part down very low.
  • Craig from Melbourne, AustraliaThis song was rarely performed live. A version can be seen in the special features of the superb "Gimme Shelter" doco.
  • Michael from Santa Barbara, CaProdigal Son is a Parable form The King James Bible, which is very similar to the song. You can find this Parable at (Luke 15:11-32)
  • Steve from Ottawa, CanadaStefanie, Muddy Waters did record a song called Rollin' Stone, but it is not the same as the Robert Wilkins song. It is the song, however, from which the Rolling Stones took their name.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScDidn't Muddy Waters record a song called "Rollin' Stone" or "Rollin' Stone Blues." Is it the same as the Robert Wilkins song?
  • Sam from Shanghai, ChinaSounds a lot like a Robert Johnson track to me, especially the way Mick sings it
  • Robert from Santa Barbara, CaIt was traditional in the South to play blues(the devil's music) until you were saved(sanctified). When Robert Wilkins originally recorded the song, he called it "That's No Way To Get Along", but after he became the Reverend Robert Wilkins, he changed the lyrics(but not the music) and recorded it as "The Prodigal Son". The Stones used the sanctified title, but mixed in the secular lyrics at the end.
  • Chris from Macon, GaActually, this song is copied and shortened from Wilkins' version done earlier at Newport. From the album ' Blues At Newport 1959-1964 ' in which Wilkins does Prodigal Son to the tune of That's No Way For Me To Get Along. So the Stones didnt really "give" their version any title, Wilkins already had.
  • Eric from Franklin, MaI know this song is Robert Wilkins but I was wondering if this reminds of you of a Leadbelly type of song.
  • Naomi from Pg, Canadathe guitar part is played in open E tuning (EBEG#BE)
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Pam Tillis

Pam TillisSongwriter Interviews

The country sweetheart opines about the demands of touring and talks about writing songs with her famous father.


HardySongwriter Interviews

The country hitmaker talks about his debut album, A Rock, and how a nursery rhyme inspired his hit single "One Beer."

Andy McClusky of OMD

Andy McClusky of OMDSongwriter Interviews

Known in America for the hit "If You Leave," OMD is a huge influence on modern electronic music.

Songs About Movies

Songs About MoviesSong Writing

Iron Maiden, Adele, Toto, Eminem and Earth, Wind & Fire are just some of the artists with songs directly inspired by movies - and not always good ones.

Bob Daisley

Bob DaisleySongwriter Interviews

Bob was the bass player and lyricist for the first two Ozzy Osbourne albums. Here's how he wrote songs like "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" with Ozzy and Randy Rhoads.

Graham Bonnet (Alcatrazz, Rainbow)

Graham Bonnet (Alcatrazz, Rainbow)Songwriter Interviews

Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai were two of Graham's co-writers for some '80s rock classics.