life beyond the well…

Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone…


Alright, seriously. I love this song. I can remember the first time I heard it. It was a summer afternoon, and my dad and I were riding in the car. His car didn’t have air condition and I was trying to convince him to test drive cars (even though we had no intention of buying one) so that we could ride around in some air condition for a while. Anyhow, he had made a mixed tape from one of the albums that he had, and this song was on there. It was love at first sound.

So, for years I’ve been arguing/heatedly discussing with people the lyrics; particularly in the chorus:

“Papa was a rolling stone/wherever he laid his hat was his home/and when he died/all he left us was ________”

Exactly. Is it “a loan” or “alone”? I firmly believe that it is “a loan”…and here’s why-

The song starts of by saying:

“It was the 3rd 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…”

So, the way I figure is- you can’t leave me alone if I never knew you. Seriously.

Some other lyrics from the song that I believe support this:

“Hey Mama, Is it true, what they say that Papa never worked a day in his life?…Heard some talk about Papa doin’ some storefront preachin’. Talkin’ about savin’ souls, and all the time leechin’. Dealin’ in debt! And stealing in the name of the Lord…” ~Verse 2

“Hey, Mama, I heard Papa call himself a jack of all trades. Tell me, is that what sent Papa to an early grave? Folks say Papa would beg, borrow, or steal to pay his bills…”~Verse 3

So to continue with my reasoning- we find in verse 2 that he was “dealin’ in debt and stealing in the name of the Lord” and in verse 3 we learn that he would “beg, borrow, or steal to pay his bills.” This would mean that when he died he owed people money. And when people die, you or rather the family/the estate has to settle their debts. That said, he left them “a loan”- meaning they had to settle his debts with their own money.

Whew…hope that makes sense. I’m sure there will be some debate on this. But it’s just what I believe. What do you think?


Author: erin.almond

God-chaser. NC native, now planted in Jacksonville, FL. Happily married to a handsome church-planting pastor. I am easily excited by Jesus, education, cupcakes, Moleskine notebooks, and Pepsi. Overwhelmed by God's amazing grace, undeserving of His love and mercy.

6 thoughts on “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone…

  1. Wow — that’s a very reasonable and sound argument.

    You backed up your premise with specific and precise examples telling why you believe it is true.

    That said, I think you’re digging a little to bit.

    In the lyric “All he left us was alone” I don’t think they are physically talking about something he left them accidentally or purposelly in a will. I don’t think it’s something they inherited from them.

    I think they just mean throughout their life all he left them was “alone.”

    Just my opinion though and this is too funny 🙂

  2. I have ALWAYS loved this song. I, too, was introduced to it by my dad who loved the song. The irony is that my dad was BORN on the 3rd of September. And thankfully, he wasn’t a rolling stone. Some other things, but not a rolling stone. (LOVE YOU DAD if you read this)

    I think its “alone,” E. Davis. To offer someone “a loan,” you have to have something to give and its clear that he didn’t have anything to give that they would have asked for. You also can’t leave someone a loan after you die. You have to be alive to work all of that out. Plus they sound salty when they say “alone.” If he left them “a loan,” they might not be as salty because since he died, they wouldn’t have to pay it back, which should make them happy.

    With all of that being said, if the lyric would have been “a loan,” it would have been MUCH more poetic and interesting.

  3. WOW and LOL at Gene and Rell. Classic commentary.

    Gene, I feel you. My dad is a lot of things- but IN THE NAME OF JESUS, he is not (AND WILL NOT BE) a rolling stone. Y’all keep praying on that one.

    Interesting thoughts, though…

  4. I neva though about it like that Edave…I think your argument is sound… Im convinced…well maybe:)


  5. i always thought it was intentionally vague. somehwere between a double entendre and a piece of impressionism. i think it’s “alone,” though. worst of all, those morehouse fuckers appropriated this song as one of their cheers at basketball games. you know this is a great song when it can overcome those fuckassniggaz.

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