“Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” is a psychedelic soul song, written by Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong as a single for Motown act The Undisputed Truth in 1971. This version of “Papa” was released as a single in early 1972, and peaked at number 63 on the pop charts and number 24 on the R&B charts.
Later in 1972, Whitfield, who also produced the song, took “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and remade it as a 12-minute record for The Temptations, which 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 an enduring and influential soul classic. It was ranked #168 on Rolling Stone‘s 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 “Papa” to be the last real classic the group recorded.