“Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves”
was a #1 single in 1971 by American singer-actress Cher from the album of the same name, her seventh solo album. It was her first chart-topper as a solo artist in the United States. The single was certified Gold by the RIAA for its sales of over 1 million copies.
“Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” was the first single from Cher’s 1971 eponymous album Cher with instrumental backing by L.A session musicians from the Wrecking Crew. The album was subsequently renamed and re-released as Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves after the success of the single. The song was written by songwriter Bob Stone as a story-song called “Gypsys, Tramps and White Trash”. Producer Snuff Garrett advised that the title be changed and Stone then changed it to “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves”. The album of the same name got very positive reviews.
Released four years after her last top ten hit “You Better Sit Down Kids”, this song was a comeback single for Cher—it was her first single in four years to chart higher than #84—not only returning her to the top ten of the charts but also giving her two weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1971. It knocked off “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart which had spent the previous month at number one. The single also reached #1 in Canada and #4 in the United Kingdom. It became Cher’s best-selling single at that point, selling more than 3 million copies worldwide. As of November 2011, Billboard reported the digital sales of
“Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” t
o be 212,000 in the US.
The song describes the life of a girl, the narrator of the song, who was “born in the wagon of a traveling show”. Her mother “used to dance for the money they’d throw”, while her father would do “whatever he could; preach a little gospel, sell a couple bottles of Doctor Good”. Although the people of the town insulted them with such terms suggested in the title of the song, the men paid them well “every night” for their services.
When a young man is picked up in Mobile, the narrator is 16, while he is 21. Her family took care of him for a while and allowed him to travel with them to Memphis, although her father “would have shot him if he knew what he’d done” when he has sex with the narrator. Three months later, the narrator describes herself as a “gal in trouble”, and her young man has disappeared.
Echoing the beginning of the song, the narrator’s own daughter was “born in the wagon of a traveling show”, while the narrator now dances “for the money they throw” and “Grandpa” — the narrator’s own father — supported them in just the same way as before.
The title of this song has also been shown with the alternative spelling “Gypsies”, this being a correct spelling of this word.