What does Papa Was A Rollin' Stone mean?

The Temptations: Papa Was A Rollin' Stone Meaning

Album cover for Papa Was A Rollin' Stone album cover

Papa Was A Rollin' Stone 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...

  1. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Feb 28th !⃝

    The song takes place on September, 3rd, and it was the day that the Narrator's estranged-absent Father had suddenly died. It was the only thing that the Narrator in the song, only knew about him.

    To know about who his dead father really was; as he never met him or even knew the dead man as he was growing up, and all he ever heard about his deceased father were the terrible things that he caused; when he was alive.

    He asks his mother about what his dead father had done to make things go awfully wrong; as she explains to her son that the man was nothing but a "Rolling Stone":(which was from an old English proverb meaning a rolling stone gathers no moss.) A man who never would settle down in one place; thus he was also a selfish man who thought of no one but himself. She would then explain about how he'd go to every one of his lovers' place that the dead father would settled down would end up becoming his home. After his death, the only things that the deceased father had left behind was nothing but loneliness, sorrow, and a massive debt he had.

    As the Narrator questions about the dead man, he remembers the conversations that the people around town had spoken about the deceased father: How he'd never wanted to work at all, as well as having several illegitimate children from several women, and having a second wife. His plans of deception towards those who were kind-hearted to him; by stealing their money away from them by pretending that he was a preacher from a fraudulent church he'd created; in order to get the money that he wanted into his hands.

    The street folk also said that the dead father always boasted about being a "Jack-Of-All-Trades", and how such of his evil actions that he'd committed in his lifetime; had killed him, and landed him into the grave. As he was just nothing but a liar, a deceiver, and a thief who'd beg, borrow, and steal from everyone in order to pay off the debts he made. The deceased man was a drunk; as well as having a nasty habit of being a philanderer that slept with so many women without a care in the world.

    The Narrator understood what his mother had told him about the dead father: Being a Rolling Stone who would go from one lover's place to another as it was his "home" that he settled on. After he died, the dead father left no inheritance to the woman and his children; thus leaving them in an empty, lonely situation; and left behind only a debt that he had.

    Therefore in the end, the Narrator vowed to never followed the same path that the dead father had created; and what had led him to the grave.

  2. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 25th 2015 !⃝

    This song is about how a child throughout his/her life is asking their mother what their father is like because they is hearing all these different things about him. As in the hook, in the beginning the mother try making the father look great but as the kids grew older is was harder to do it. That is why after the last verse when the kids are grown is when she broke down because she knew that she cannot keep them from the truth anymore.


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