Rose Royce

Rose Royce
Release date
01 January 1970
Rose Royce
01 January 1970 |

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The Los Angeles-based group comprised Gwen Dickey (vocals), Henry Garner (drums), Terral “Terry” Santiel
(congas), Lequeint “Duke” Jobe (bass), Michael Moore (saxophone), Kenny Copeland (trumpet, lead vocals), Kenji
Brown (guitar, lead vocals), Freddie Dunn (trumpet), and Victor Nix (keyboards). The group began in the early
1970s, when members of several backup bands from the Watts and Inglewood areas of Los Angeles united under
the name Total Concept Unlimited. In 1973, this collective toured England and Japan behind Motown soul star
Edwin Starr. Starr introduced them to Norman Whitfield.

Whitfield, after a decade at Motown, wanted to start a company of his own. He took the T.C.U. octet under his wing
and signed them to his label. The group, now called Magic Wand, began working with Yvonne Fair and became the
studio and concert band for The Undisputed Truth. During a tour stop in Miami, Undisputed Truth leader Joe
Harris noticed a singer named Gwen Dickey, then a member of a local group called The Jewels. Harris informed
Whitfield of his discovery and Dickey was flown to Los Angeles to audition. In Dickey, Whitfield found the
ingredient he felt was missing in Magic Wand: a charismatic female singer. He gave her the stage name Rose
Norwalt. The original band lineup, now complete, prepared their debut album.

During this time Whitfield was contacted by film director Michael Schultz, fresh from the success of his first
feature, Cooley High. Schultz offered Whitfield the opportunity to score his next picture, Car Wash. Whitfield
would use the film to launch his new group and began composing music based on script outlines. He and the band
visited the film set, soaking up the atmosphere. This was one of the rare instances in Hollywood in which the music
was composed concurrently with the picture instead of after the fact. In the spirit of the soundtrack, the band’s
name was changed one final time to ‘Rose Royce’. The name not only referenced the movie’s automotive theme, but
it also placed Gwen “Rose” Dickey front and center. Further, it hinted at a touch of class the band strove to
bring to 1970s soul-funk.

The movie Car Wash and the soundtrack were great successes, bringing the group national fame. Whitfield won
the Best Music award at the Cannes Film Festival, and the album received the Grammy for Best Motion Picture
Score Album of the Year. Released in late 1976, the soundtrack featured three Billboard R&B Top Ten singles: “Car Wash,” “I Wanna Get Next to You,” and “I’m Going Down.” The first of these was also a number one single on the
Billboard popular music chart, and “I Wanna Get Next to You” reached number 10.

The group’s follow-up album, Rose Royce II: In Full Bloom, produced two Top Ten singles, “Do Your Dance” and
Ooh Boy“. It also included “Wishing on a Star“, which for Rose Royce was a top-10 hit only in the UK; it became
notable elsewhere through its cover versions, including The Cover Girls’ Top Ten single in 1992.

During 1978, they released their third album, entitled Rose Royce III: Strikes Again!, and it featured “I’m in Love
(And I Love the Feeling)” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”. Both singles entered the Billboard R&B Top Five.
“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” was a number 2 hit in the UK, and would later gain greater exposure through its
cover versions, most notably by Madonna in 1984 and 1995.

The group followed with a series of modest successes that reached the charts, but never gained the status that
their previous songs did. Dickey left the group in April 1980 and Rose Royce temporarily disbanded. However, the
remaining members regrouped, adjusted the line-up, and kept the group somewhat popular in the UK, where they
remained a marquee attraction.

Rose Royce was featured in the TV One’s seasonal series, Unsung during the spring of 2010. The story featured the
successes and internal bickering of the group. Dickey, Copeland, Jobe, Moore and Garner were the only members
of the band who gave interviews throughout the program. Dickey now performs as a solo artist in the UK, but
mentioned during the interview that she would not mind performing with the group once again. From 2012-2013,
R&B vocalist Debelah Morgan joined the band as their lead singer for a few shows. Additionally, Bag Raiders and
Daft Punk sampled their single “First Come First Served” with the songs “Shooting Stars” and “Too Long”


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