Papa Was A Rollin' Stone

Album: All Directions (1972)
Charted: 14 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • 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
    Momma I'm depending on you to tell me the truth
    Momma just hung her head and said, son

    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, yeah)
    Wherever he laid his hat was his home
    And when he died, all he left us was alone

    Hey Momma!
    Is it true what they say that Papa never worked a day in his life
    And Momma, some bad talk goin' round town sayin' that
    Papa had three outside children
    And another wife, and that ain't right
    Heard some talk Papa doing some storefront preachin'
    Talking about saving souls and all the time leechin'
    Dealing in dirt, and stealing in the name of the Lord
    Momma just hung her head and said

    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 Papa was a rolling stone (dad gumma it)
    Where ever he laid his hat was his home
    And when he died, all he left us was alone

    Hey Momma
    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 Momma
    Folks say Papa never was much on thinking
    Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking
    Momma I'm depending on you to tell me the truth
    Momma looked up with a tear in her eye and said, son

    Papa was a rolling stone (well, well, well, well)
    Wherever he laid his hat was his home
    And when he died, all he left us was alone (lone, lone, lone, alone)
    Papa was a rolling stone
    Wherever he laid his hat was his home
    And when he died, all he left us was alone

    (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, yeah)
    Wherever he laid his hat was his home)Writer/s: Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield
    Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
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Comments: 24

  • Pete from FerrymanCall me crazy, but I’ve always thought there was a brilliant double entendre with the “all he left us was alone” - which could also mean “a loan”. Probably over thinking it!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 5th 1982, "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" by Wolf entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #82; and on January 9th, 1983 it peaked at #55 {for 1 week} and spent 9 week on the Top 100 chart...
    Wolf was actually Bill Wolfer; he is best known as the keyboardist on the ten second intro on Michael Jackson's #1 hit record "Billie Jean".
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 18th 1972, the Temptations performed "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" on the syndicated television program 'Soul Train'...
    At the time the song was at #6 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and eight days later on November 26th, 1972 it peaked at #1 {for 1 week}...
    {See the next post below}...
    R.I.P. Don Cornelius, Soul Train’s host, {1936 -2012}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny*** Where ever he laid his hat was his home ***
    On October 8th, 1972, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" by the Temptations entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #83; and on November 26th, 1972 it peaked at #1 {for 1 week} and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
    And kind of surprisingly, it only reached #5 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart; but their next four releases all peaked at #1 {"Masterpiece", "Let Your Hair Down", "Happy People", and "Shakey Ground"}...
    Earlier in 1972 the original version of the song by the Undisputed Truth entered the Top 100 on June 4th at position #76; it stayed on the chart for five weeks and on June 25th, 1972 it peaked at #63 {for 1 week}.
  • Markantney from Biloxi, MsThis is one of the songs that prove the timelessness and the ability of the Temps to transform and adapt (with the times), nowadays you'd think they could replace David (Ruffin) but then to replace him with someone with even stronger vocals (I didn't say "Better"). This song fits Dennis' vocal(s) a lot better than they would/could David's.

    They transformed and adapted again after Dennis left, came back-left, when Ollie came in.
  • Kevin from East Brunswick, NjDennis Edwards' father did not, in fact, die on "the third of September," but on the third of October.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaLaLah...you've GOT to be kidding.."Housecleaning Music"..? Anyway, good comment. The song is about 14 minutes long, or 12, either way even longer than the 7 minute long 45 rpm version.
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiMy favorite Tempations song.
  • Jay from Brooklyn, NyThink of the Temps' last three big hits: Ball of Confusion, Just My Imagination, and Papa Was a Rollin' Stone. They were all written by Norman Whitfield, yet they are so different. Ball of Confusion is ordered chaos, jumping from singer to singer and idea to idea. Just My Imagination is beautiful and heartbreaking, but traditional in its arrangement. Papa is a knife to the gut. It is a terrible song - a masterpiece in its performance, but terrible in its subject matter. I can picture the song taking place over many years with the "children" asking "Momma" more and more pointed questions about what kind of a man their father really was. It is devastating and brutal to see the "children" learn that their father was not a good man. We never learn how "Papa" died, but I infer he met a violent end, brought on by his many illegal and immoral actions.
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkGreat housecleaning song. It's the right cadence for dusting.
  • John from Nashville, TnThis song is unique because it's such a complex song considering the fact that it only has one chord (B flat-ninth).
  • Joe from Monroe, NyThis song was actually released in 1972, NOT 1973. It is the best Temptations "real world" song, barely edging out "Ball of Confusion". Both were written by Norman Whitfield, who also wrote their best love song, "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)"
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaDefinitely one of the best songs ever out of Motown. Fantastic production! The instrumental version is worth a buck on iTunes.
  • Ticketred from Walpole, MaThis song takes me right back to the '70's, where I grew up (Boston) and seemed to be playing throughout the summer back in those crazy days of racial tension, political strife and the anti-war movement. The bass line, pecussion (including handclaps), and vocals are just awesome. The version I have is 6:56 with vocals.
  • Matt from Boston, Mathe group rockapella did a version of this that KICKS ASS. Its wicked cool with a more modern feel
  • Justin from Albany, Nymy favorite motown song ever...so good
  • Duane from Columbus, OhCorrection for Pete...Eddie Kendricks left the group before this song was recorded. The "girl" part is Damon Harris.
  • Steven from Sunnyvale, CaBob Rivers (twistedtunes.com) did a good parody called "Grandpa Loved The Rolling Stones" that has this line: "He never got a chance to see them; Losing all of his vision and most of his hearing"
  • Chad from Eagan, MnBest funk song ever!
  • Pete from Ny, NyYou could always easily picture the three different singers as kids sitting at their mother's knee, asking about the father they never knew. It was only years later that I realized the "girl" vocal part was actually Eddie Kendricks. A masterpiece.
  • Jay from Brooklyn, NyYou're missing some of the lyrics.

    It was the third of September
    That day I'll always remember
    'Cause that was the day when my daddy died
    I never got the 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: (repeat twice)
    "Papa was a rollin' stone
    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, there been talk all around town
    Sayin' that Papa had three outside children and another wife
    And that ain't right!
    Heard some talk about Papa doin' some storefront preachin'
    Talkin' 'bout savin' souls and all the time leachin'
    Dealin' in drugs and stealin' in the name of the Lord.
    Mama just hung her head and said, "Son...
    (Chorus)
    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, or steal to pay his bills
    Hey, Mama, folks say Papa never was much on thinkin'
    Spent most of his time chasin' women and drinkin'
    Mama, I'm depending on you to tell me the truth
    Mama looked up with a tear in her eye and said, "Son...
    (Chorus)
  • Patrick from Bonheiden, BelgiumRemember that movie 10 with Bo Derek? She made love to the man who saved her from drowning having Ravel's Bolero on. Once I had a girl and we hadn't the Bolero but used the 11 minutes version of this song: works fine!
  • Dave from Holt, MiI love this tune.Iit would be great as an instumental as well,as attested by the first 1:56 of the song. Dave T.;Holt,Michigan
  • Arlo from Westfield, MaIn the Temptations movie, this song was a big source of contention.
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