Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Papa Was A Rollin' Stone

What a song!  Memorable groove and arrangement with its precise use of horns, strings, wah-wah guitar, and even handclaps.  With a lyric as sadly relevant today as it was 45 years ago.  
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"

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   
Released in September 1972, Papa Was A Rollin' Stone was the 22nd top twenty single by The Temptations since 1964 and their fourth, and final, #1 hit (the others being My Girl, I Can't Get Next To You, and Just My Imagination).

Papa was written by one of Motown's top composer/producer teams, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.  Strong began his career with Motown as a singer and delivered its first hit single, Money (That's What I Want) in 1962, but quickly transferred into a songwriting partnership with Whitfield, writing tunes like War (for Edwin Starr), I Heard It Through The Grapevine, and a slew of Temptations hits ( such as Just My Imagination, Ain't Too Proud To Beg, Cloud Nine, Ball of Confusion).

The studio musicians were The Funk Brothers and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  I've been unable to find which specific Funk Brothers players were on the track except for Wah Wah Watson (Melvin Ragin) who is responsible for the wah-wah guitar.

Below is the 7 minute hit single (with its nearly two minute intro), edited down from the full 12 minute version.

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