About The Song

Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” is a song originally performed by Motown recording act the Undisputed Truth in 1972, though it became much better known after a Grammy-award winning cover by the Temptations was issued later the same year. This latter version of the song became a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1971. Whitfield produced the original Undisputed Truth version, which was released as a single in May 1972. This version of the song peaked at number 63 on the Pop Charts and number 24 on the R&B Charts. The song was included on the Undisputed Truth’s album Law of the Land (1973).

Later in 1972, Whitfield cut a different version of the song, turning it into a 12-minute track for the Temptations. This version was included on their 1972 album All Directions. The edited 7-inch single release of this Temptations track was issued in September 1972, and this version was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and won three Grammy Awards in 1973. While the original Undisputed Truth version of the song has been largely forgotten, the Temptations’ version of the song has been regarded as an enduring and influential soul classic. The full-length album version was ranked number 169 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, one of the group’s three songs on the list. In retrospect, the Temptations’ Otis Williams considers the song to be the last real classic the group recorded (it would be the Temptations’ last number one hit and would win them their second and final Grammy Award in a competitive category).

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