On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
The Temptations – Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone (1972)
Welcome to 1972, dear reader. We closed 1971 with a stay in Washington D.C. and today we begin 1972 by travelling over to Detroit. It’s a second appearance for The Temptations after previously gracing us with Ball of Confusion. In 1972 Norman Whitfield had written a song with Barrett Strong and recorded his version. Later that year he had The Temptations record a much longer version (6 minutes for the single, 12 minutes for the album version). The track was Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone and secures a place on this list.
In Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone, vocals duties are shared out amongst the members of The Temptations. The narrator they take on is reflecting on their father who has just passed away. They speak with their mother and ask about their father, wanting to learn more about him. Are all the rumours and stories they have heard about him true? Did he have another wife and other kids, did he never work, did he make his money through crime? What is the real truth about the man who was never there? The mother answers her inquisitive child with the refrain that “papa was a rollin’ stone”, always on the move and never settling for long. She also reveals that in death he had left nothing for his family.
It’s great to have The Temptations back and what a great song to start 1972 with. I was familiar with this track but had never really delved deeply into what it was about though had deduced from the title that this papa likes to wander around. The different vocals here are effectively done and makes you think that multiple children are gathering round their mother and inundating her with questions about the absent father. The song would be a chart topper for the group and bag them multiple awards as well. Deservedly so.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
The Kinks – Days (1968)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks (1971)