On this day in music history: December 2, 1972 – “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written and produced by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the fourth and final number one pop single for the veteran Motown vocal group. The song is originally recorded by The Undisputed Truth (“Smiling Faces Sometimes”) in 1971 with their version peaking at #24 on the R&B singles chart and #63 on the Hot 100. When The Temptations hear the track for the first time, initially they are unhappy with the songs’ extended intro (the first vocal doesn’t begin until nearly four minutes into the LP version and nearly two minutes into the single version). The opening lyric (“It Was the third of September, that day I’ll always remember, yes I will. ‘Cause that was the day, that my daddy died.”) is particularly upsetting to lead singer Dennis Edwards. Though Edwards father died on the third of October (not the third of September as was the often repeated legend), it still hits a little too close to home. Ever the hard driving perfectionist in the studio, Whitfield has the group recut their vocals numerous times much to their annoyance, though it results in the performance captured on the finished record. The twelve minute long album track is edited down to just under seven minutes for single release. In spite of its length, the record is an across the board smash. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” wins three Grammy Awards including Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group, Best R&B Instrumental Performance, and Best R&B Song in 1973. “Papa” is covered numerous times over the years including a version by musician Bill Wolfer in 1982 that features Michael Jackson on background vocals. George Michael also perform the song as part of a medley with Adamski and Seal’s song “Killer” in 1992 at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and released on the EP “Five Live”. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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