First recorded by The Undisputed Truth (US #63/R&B #24 1971).
Other hit versions by The Temptations (US #1/R&B #5/UK #14/CAN #12/NZ #6 1972), Bill “Wolf” Wolfer (US #55/R&B #47 1982), (Was (Not Was) (R&B #60/UK #11/NETH #13/SWZ #6 1990).
From the wiki: “‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ is a psychedelic Soul song, written by Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield (‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine‘)and Barrett Strong (‘Money (That’s What I Want)‘), and first recorded in 1971 for Motown by The Undisputed Truth. (This version of ‘Papa’ was released as a single in early 1972, where it peaked at #63 on the pop charts and #24 on the R&B charts.
“Later in 1972, Whitfield, who had produced the original version, took ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ and remade it into a 12-minute magnum opus for The Temptations. This version became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a total of three Grammy Awards in 1973. The A-side won for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group; its B-side, the instrumental backing by The Funk Brothers without the Temptations’ vocals, won for Best R&B Instrumental (awarded to Whitfield and arranger/conductor Paul Riser); and Whitfield and Barrett Strong won for Best R&B Song as the song’s composers
“Friction arose during the new recording of ‘Papa’. The Temptations did not like the fact that Whitfield’s instrumentation had been getting more emphasis than their vocals on their songs at the time. Also, Whitfield is said to have forced lead singer Dennis Edwards to rerecord his parts dozens of times until he finally got the angered, bitter grumble Whitfield desired.
“Whitfield’s treatment of the group eventually led to his dismissal as their producer. Legend has it that Edwards was angered by the song’s first verse: ‘It was the third of September/That day I’ll always remember/’cause that was the day/that my daddy died,’ as his father was said to have died on that date. It actually was on the third of October, however.
“Bill ‘Wolf’ Wolfer created an electronic cover of the song for his 1982 debut album, Wolf. The single peaked at #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1983, as well as #47 on the R&B Charts. Michael Jackson provided backing vocals.
“In 1990, the group Was (Not Was) covered the song on the album Are You Okay?, and their version reached #12 on the UK Singles chart.”
The Temptations, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1972):
Bill “Wolf” Wolfer, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1982):
Was (Not Was), “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1990):