Soulful DetroitMowtown Topics - Archives IIMotown Topics Archive � What did 'papa' leave? Previous Next

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underdog (underdog)
3-Pundit
Username: underdog

Post Number: 63
Registered: 10-2006
Posted From: 79.70.239.127
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 5:17 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Listening to the Tempts 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' the other day, and it struck me that, 35 years on, and i'm still not sure whether:

When He Died, All He Left Us Was... "a loan" [to pay off], or "alone" [without him]. Both make sense lyrically, I guess - what does anyone else think?
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copley (copley)
4-Laureate
Username: copley

Post Number: 114
Registered: 5-2007
Posted From: 86.150.86.75
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 5:19 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

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 nothing but bad things about him.
Mama, I'm depending on you to tell me the truth.

And Mama just hung her head and said,
"Son, Papa was a rolling stone.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
(And when he died) All he left us was ALONE."
"Papa was a rolling stone, my son.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
(And when he died) All he left us was ALONE."

Well, well.

Hey Mama, is it true what they say,
that Papa never worked a day in his life?
And Mama, some bad talk going around town
saying that Papa had three outside children and another wife.
And that ain't right.
Hey, talk about Papa doing some store front preaching.
Talked about saving souls and all the time leeching.
Dealing in debt and stealing in the name of the Lord.

Mama just hung her head and said,
"Papa was a rolling stone, my son.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
(And when he died) All he left us was ALONE."
"Hey, Papa was a rolling stone.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
(And when he died) All he left us was ALONE."

Uh!

Hey Mama, I heard Papa called himself a jack of all trades.
Tell me is that what sent Papa to an early grave?
Folks say Papa would beg, borrow, steal to pay his bills.
Hey Mama, folks say that Papa was never much on thinking.
Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking.
Mama, I'm depending on you to tell me the truth.

And Mama looked up with a tear in her eye and said,
"Son, Papa was a rolling stone. (Well, well, well, well)
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
(And when he died) All he left us was ALONE."
"Papa was a rolling stone.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
(And when he died) All he left us was ALONE."

"I said, Papa was a rolling stone. Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
(And when he died) All he left us was ALONE."
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Thedream (thedream)
4-Laureate
Username: thedream

Post Number: 114
Registered: 11-2007
Posted From: 68.80.197.169
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 8:10 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Underdog: This thread is indeed a revelation, and further enforces the "unique" learning value of the SDF. For the 30 years, many listeners spoke of that last chorus word, and virtually all thought that it was "a loan" as opposed to "alone". The many actions he (Papa) took during his life (in those lyrics) very well in today's world leave his estate with loans as well as "alone". Copley.....thanks for posting the answer.
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144man (144man)
6-Zenith
Username: 144man

Post Number: 527
Registered: 9-2007
Posted From: 82.2.170.166
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 8:39 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Even though spelled "alone" in the lyrics, it still could have been written to be deliberately ambiguous.
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copley (copley)
4-Laureate
Username: copley

Post Number: 116
Registered: 5-2007
Posted From: 86.150.86.75
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 8:53 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Well I have known this song since it's release and I have never once thought that it was ' a loan'. We he died he left nothing, if he had left ' a loan' then he left something :-)
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midnightman (midnightman)
6-Zenith
Username: midnightman

Post Number: 710
Registered: 9-2007
Posted From: 65.190.181.119
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 10:31 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That meant his dad left his family with NOTHING because there was confusion to what his father actually did because of rumors of him being a swindling preacher, a "jack-of-all-trades", a cheating, drinking pig and a guy who lived a double life with another family. That's why the son kept asking so many questions to his mama and every time he asked, she said the same thing, LOL.
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JAI NANCE (rhythm66)
6-Zenith
Username: rhythm66

Post Number: 5301
Registered: 2-2005
Posted From: 138.238.41.202
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 11:01 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

HAAAAAAA,SOUNDS LIKE MY WIFE'S DISCRIPTION OF ME,EXCEPT AT THE END SHE SAYS-I WISH YOU WOULD LEAVE US ALONE..THINK SHE'S TRYING TO TELL ME SOMETHING???
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LaDia (ladia)
5-Doyen
Username: ladia

Post Number: 282
Registered: 5-2008
Posted From: 66.19.24.38
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 1:39 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

i always said he left them nothing but all ALONE.lol.
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stubass (stubass)
6-Zenith
Username: stubass

Post Number: 7775
Registered: 1-2005
Posted From: 207.200.116.68
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 2:24 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

According to Otis W in his "Temptations" book, and the film...Dennis angrily accused Norman Whitfield of intentionally using the 3rd of September...the day Dennis' father actually DID pass away, in order to draw out some emotion from Dennis for the recording session, to which Whitfield denied...proclaiming "just a coincidence", but credits the situation for creating some of the intensity present in the recording...at least according to Otis!!!...

STUBASS
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JAI NANCE (rhythm66)
6-Zenith
Username: rhythm66

Post Number: 5305
Registered: 2-2005
Posted From: 138.238.41.202
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 2:29 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

THE FUNNY THING IS THAT THE SONG WOULD'VE WORKED JUST AS WELL HAD THEY SANG-IT WAS THE THIRD OF NOVEMBER!
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stubass (stubass)
6-Zenith
Username: stubass

Post Number: 7776
Registered: 1-2005
Posted From: 207.200.116.68
Posted on Saturday, June 07, 2008 - 3:16 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

It would have been tough keeping "papa" on life support for those two months though Jai!!!...

STUBASS
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Richard Heaney (the_chicks_call_me__slick)
5-Doyen
Username: the_chicks_call_me__slick

Post Number: 378
Registered: 4-2005
Posted From: 82.10.140.33
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2008 - 2:10 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I always thought it was alone they sang. It made far more sense .


As for this line " Dealing in debt and stealing in the name of the Lord. "


I always thought they sang , Dealing in dirt , and stealing in the name of the Lord .


Doh !
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k2 (kalisa2)
4-Laureate
Username: kalisa2

Post Number: 74
Registered: 1-2006
Posted From: 75.23.133.174
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2008 - 7:01 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Dennis dealt with the "3rd of September" issue in an interview that I listened to online somewhere. His father actually died on the 3rd of October (according to the interview), so the "3rd of September" was mostly a non-issue. Maybe the "3rd" bothered him, he didn't say. He was more upset about the long intro of the song.
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midnightman (midnightman)
6-Zenith
Username: midnightman

Post Number: 740
Registered: 9-2007
Posted From: 65.190.181.119
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2008 - 7:17 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

LMAO! So another Otis story debunked by a member of the Temptations. I'd be angry over the long intro myself. I think Dennis and the others were upset that the song was as long as it was. That's why he sounded a little perturbed, lol.
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midnightman (midnightman)
6-Zenith
Username: midnightman

Post Number: 741
Registered: 9-2007
Posted From: 65.190.181.119
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2008 - 7:20 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

LOL @ Richard, I'm glad I'm not the only one. I said dirt for like 100 times before reading the lyrics, LOL!

Talk about embarrassing, LOL.
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JTF1972 (jtf1972)
5-Doyen
Username: jtf1972

Post Number: 281
Registered: 4-2007
Posted From: 67.87.56.91
Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - 1:31 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Try imagining "Papa..." with a two-measure intro before Dennis comes in.

Norman knew what he was doing. Look at the number of records he produced that never grow old and have us consistently jammin'. That loooooooooooooooooong intro builds the groove to a point where when the vocal actually comes in they enhance the pain in the song. It's like this is something that is difficult to rap about, but I might as well get this out. I can only imagine the first time it came on... just diggin' the groove seemingly forever and then BAM! "It was the third of September...."

It is easy to talk about your father if he was a great man, as Horace Silver wrote about and The Winstons too. The intro sets the mood, simmering until the truth about papa comes out.
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midnightman (midnightman)
6-Zenith
Username: midnightman

Post Number: 744
Registered: 9-2007
Posted From: 65.190.181.119
Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - 2:53 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Yeah I knew Norman knew what he was doing, but it's interesting hearing how people who sung his productions experienced it. To us fans, that's one of the greatest intros of all time, to people like Dennis Edwards and Marvin Gaye, that could've been gnarling to live with! LOL
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Kdubya (paladin)
6-Zenith
Username: paladin

Post Number: 3693
Registered: 5-2004
Posted From: 67.176.220.255
Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - 9:28 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

hell I always thought they said dirt too....lol....and the word seemed quite appropriate.......

Norman definitely knew what he was doing, sometimes the stars are just aligned right and we get a Masterpiece.

The first time I heard Poppa, was on FM radio. I was driving to my friends house for a lil R&R. The bass line had me hooked, then the strings, and finally the guitar and then Dennis Edwards...."It was the third of September"..... Now this being FM radio, and the DJ's would just play the records and not announce them, I had no idea who this was.....and when I heard Dennis voice, I stopped the car, pulled over to the curb and just listened. These are the Temptations ?

When I got to my friends house I spent a heck of a lot of time on the phone calling my family(Mom, Bros etc) friends to see if anyone had heard the song or knew where it could be bought. It took Chicago by storm.

I recall thinking to myself, This record was going to be bigger than Runaway Child....Eddie and Paul were gone and the Temptations just got bigger than ever.....
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Chi Drummer (chidrummer)
6-Zenith
Username: chidrummer

Post Number: 2632
Registered: 5-2004
Posted From: 64.27.145.82
Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - 3:02 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I'd never thought of or ever heard anybody say they thought the lyric was, "a loan". That's a new one on me. Interesting take.

The other lyric in question is still in question. Web lyric sites offer both versions (dirt/debt). All of the footage I've ever seen of the Temp's performing this song sound like, "dirt" to me. I guess both version work pretty well though.
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Pshark (pshark)
6-Zenith
Username: pshark

Post Number: 979
Registered: 1-2007
Posted From: 75.36.159.210
Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - 3:08 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Maybe it was meant as a double entendre.
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Kdubya (paladin)
6-Zenith
Username: paladin

Post Number: 3707
Registered: 5-2004
Posted From: 67.176.220.255
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 9:29 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Maybe it was just the way Richard Street enunciated the verse.....
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Soulster (soulster)
6-Zenith
Username: soulster

Post Number: 978
Registered: 2-2007
Posted From: 68.231.174.109
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 6:15 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I'm pretty sure he said and meant "alone".
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LaDia (ladia)
5-Doyen
Username: ladia

Post Number: 373
Registered: 5-2008
Posted From: 66.19.24.130
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 6:43 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

i never assumed that the word he used was anything other than 'alone'.if someone never did anything for you,and didn't have any money, when they die all the do is leave you 'alone.'
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jobeterob (jobeterob)
6-Zenith
Username: jobeterob

Post Number: 4042
Registered: 1-2005
Posted From: 216.232.225.210
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 6:49 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I too only ever thought that "all he left us was alone"........; it seemed appropriate for the song. How much LESS could a father leave a son or a family than ALONE!
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PositiveSoul (positivesoul)
5-Doyen
Username: positivesoul

Post Number: 274
Registered: 3-2007
Posted From: 76.124.90.125
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 11:47 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Regardless of what a lyric website says, I still believe the true word used is "DIRT", not "debt".
Seems I can still hear those old ladies describing some no-goodnik as "dealing in dirt!" It was a cliche, like saying someone had "dirty dealings".

As for the "all he left us was aLONE" line. I often thought about the word "loan" being used there, but always knew it wasn't.

I actually prefer aLONE. It conveys TWO thoughts to me. First, he left us alone as in unfortunately abandoned to fend for ourselves. Second, he FINALLY left us alone as in no longer bringing the unwanted drama, disappointment, etc. into our lives (all that dealing in dirt no doubt!)

I LOVE ambiguous lyrics that artfully allow the hearers' imaginations to fill in finer details!
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PositiveSoul (positivesoul)
5-Doyen
Username: positivesoul

Post Number: 275
Registered: 3-2007
Posted From: 76.124.90.125
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 11:57 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I actually had started a thread several months back bemoaning the sorry level of quality found on many song lyric websites. Just starting to take a closer look at the posted lyrics... having problems in a few more areas. I put corrections in caps.

Hey Mama, is it true what they say,
that Papa never worked a day in his life?
And Mama, some bad TALK'S going around town
saying that Papa had three outside children and another wife.
And that ain't right.
HEARD SOME talk about Papa doing some store front preaching.
TALKIN BOUT saving souls and all the time leeching.
Dealing in DIRT and stealing in the name of the Lord.

Might be more, but haven't read it all yet.
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midnightman (midnightman)
6-Zenith
Username: midnightman

Post Number: 788
Registered: 9-2007
Posted From: 65.190.181.119
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 - 12:09 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

You know I just heard that song in my head, and I can still hear myself saying DIRT so that could be correct.
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Richard Heaney (the_chicks_call_me__slick)
5-Doyen
Username: the_chicks_call_me__slick

Post Number: 382
Registered: 4-2005
Posted From: 82.10.140.33
Posted on Monday, June 23, 2008 - 2:11 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

So Denis was upset about the long intro to the song ?


Why would that be ? The song is a masterpiece .


Could it be that he is only interested in himself .


Clearly Norman Whitfield got this one spot on . as he did with most of his songs .
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Soul Phil (soul_phil)
2-Debutant
Username: soul_phil

Post Number: 17
Registered: 7-2005
Posted From: 84.64.211.21
Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 - 12:42 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I always thought that "MASTERPIECE" was a masterpiece!!! and there the intro-vocal doesn't start until 6 mins or so has gone by, on the album version.

The problem with lyric websites is that unless they go back to the manuscript or the actual lyric sheet everyone is making the same mistakes of hearing!

What ever ... dirt or debt, a loan or alone , it is a classic track.

Soul Phil
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Juicefree20 (juicefree20)
6-Zenith
Username: juicefree20

Post Number: 10578
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 24.47.225.121
Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 - 5:37 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

All that he left them was ALONE, meaning that he left them nothing of substance. No insurance, no jewelry, no legacy & not even fond memories.

When you think of such a statement, you realize the bitterness of the lyricist, as that's quite a scathing remark for one to make about their father.

And I can relate to it 1,0000%.

It's pretty damn rough when your father passes & the best that you can say about them is that the only thing that they left you was alone.

That's deep!
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Juicefree20 (juicefree20)
6-Zenith
Username: juicefree20

Post Number: 10579
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 24.47.225.121
Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 - 5:41 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

RE. the "3rd Of December" situation...

According to Dennis Edwards, it didn't quite happen that way, nor was he as disturbed about it as depicted in the movie.
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Juicefree20 (juicefree20)
6-Zenith
Username: juicefree20

Post Number: 10580
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 24.47.225.121
Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 - 5:47 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

RichardH

It was reported that ALL of The Temptations were disturbed at the length of the intro.

The Temptations were a SINGING group & a damn great one. A group who was used to singing 3:00 songs. Imagine being a member of the GREATEST singing group standing in a studio & waiting for about 4 minutes before you opened your mouth to sing your first note.

In this case, the arrangement damn near relegated The Temptations to backing voices. The arrangement was so dominant & though a great song, I can understand why they might have been upset about that. Norman pulled off one of the greatest songs ever, but given their role & status in music history, I can fully understand how they felt.

In this case, the production was almost a bigger star than their voices were & that had to be a bit tough to take.
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Thedream (thedream)
4-Laureate
Username: thedream

Post Number: 137
Registered: 11-2007
Posted From: 68.80.197.169
Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - 11:41 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I am still curious & intrigued about the words "Alone vs. Loan. If the lyric "dealing in debt" is correct, then any debt still outstanding at the time of a passing would initially be passed to the heir. If the lyric is "dealing in dirt", (eg.......an outside family, drinking, & chasing other women, etc which kept him away from his son & his presumably 1st family) then the word "alone" would be more appropriate. Either word(s) chosen (Loan vs. Alone........Debt vs. Dirt) are powerful articles & statements characterizing "Papa".
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johno (johno)
6-Zenith
Username: johno

Post Number: 2221
Registered: 4-2005
Posted From: 170.20.96.116
Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - 5:58 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

A "loan" makes absolutely no sense.
You can't loan money to the family unit you have responsibilty for and then leave them for good.

"I'm leaving you all for good but here's 500 bucks and I'll only charge you 10% interest if you pay it back within six months. If after six months I have not received payment with interest in full then the interest rate will be 25%. I'm taking the television set as collateral by the way. You can send the check to this post office box I keep in Toledo and you better pay up or I'll send somebody around to break your kneecaps. Have a good life."
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Richard Heaney (the_chicks_call_me__slick)
5-Doyen
Username: the_chicks_call_me__slick

Post Number: 383
Registered: 4-2005
Posted From: 82.10.140.33
Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - 6:18 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

" I always thought that "MASTERPIECE" was a masterpiece!!! "


It really is Phil .


I may be biased though , as I'm a big fan of Norman Whitfield's music .


Juicefree it's hard for me to imagine what it would be like for The Temptations , as I have no musical ability whatsoever , but if it was me I'd be proud to be a part of Norman Whitfield's incredible music .
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midnightman (midnightman)
6-Zenith
Username: midnightman

Post Number: 851
Registered: 9-2007
Posted From: 66.26.53.85
Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - 7:02 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I guess when you're not in the Temptations' shoes, you'll come to that conclusion as have I because I also enjoy Norman's work. But I'm not surprised the Tempts had a problem with it.

When they were in England, some radio deejays jokingly referred to them as "The Norman Whitfield Singers". LOL
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Thedream (thedream)
4-Laureate
Username: thedream

Post Number: 141
Registered: 11-2007
Posted From: 68.80.197.169
Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - 10:55 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Joano: After reviewing your comment a few times, I better understand your position. Your use of the word loan is bland & "devoid of creativity". The manner in which I interpreted the words "a loan" in the song context was that the loan(s) he owed to other people (see "dealing in debt") became a transferred burden to the widow upon his passing. Also, as the child never saw his Dad, it would seem that he (Papa) didn't loan "one thin dime" to the mother, as he wasn't there or in their life . That was the way I interpreted that phrase (and also sang it with that meaning) since the early 70's, and it still makes very good sense to me in that context in 2008. However, different strokes for different folks, so all is fair in how one wants to see things. As indicated in an earlier comment above, only the original manuscript will reveal the accurate wording & meaning of Norman's lyrics Thedream
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stubass (stubass)
6-Zenith
Username: stubass

Post Number: 7918
Registered: 1-2005
Posted From: 207.200.116.68
Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - 11:15 pm: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

There was never any doubt on ANY Norman Whitfield production as to who was in charge!!!...NORMAN!!!...and I doubt he really cared if the artist was The Temptations, Rose Royce, or Frank Sinatra!!!...If Norman was running the show...Norman was RUNNING THE SHOW!!!...Not that he wasn't above letting his professional collaborators give their input...but I don't believe he really cared, in the final analysis what anyone...Dennis, Otis, or anyone else thought of what he was doing if he believed in it!!!...

STUBASS
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144man (144man)
6-Zenith
Username: 144man

Post Number: 584
Registered: 9-2007
Posted From: 82.2.170.166
Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2008 - 9:28 am: ��Edit PostDelete Post���Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I still think it's an intentional pun.

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