Deep Dive: Rose Royce – Take a Ride Beyond the Car Wash
The story of the group Rose Royce is an interesting one. They formed from the memberships of various backing bands in Los Angeles, first calling themselves Total Concept Unlimited and touring with Edwin Starr. Then Starr introduced them to Norman Whitfield, who formed a new label and signed them under a new name: Magic Wand. While they were working with Yvonne Fair and The Undisputed Truth, Whitfield hired a new female singer for the group, changing her name from Gwen Dickey to Rose Norwalt and putting her front and center. Finally, when Whitfield was hired to score the film Car Wash, he changed the name of the group to Rose Royce.
It’s hard to complain about the decision, since the soundtrack to Car Wash led to Rose Royce securing three top-10 hits on the Billboard R&B Singles chart: “I’m Going Down,” “I Wanna Get Next to You,” and the film’s theme song. But the soundtrack was so popular, with “Car Wash” itself topping both the R&B Singles chart and the Hot 100, that Rose Royce’s subsequent albums – none of which quite matched the success of the soundtrack – often fall through the cracks in favor of a best-of collection.
Now, we’d obviously be remiss if we didn’t mention that, yes, there is a very, very good best-of collection on Rhino – indeed, it is actually called THE VERY BEST OF ROSE ROYCE – but why not consider giving one of the studio albums a shot, too?
ROSE ROYCE II: IN FULL BLOOM(1977) – iTunes || Amazon
You certainly can’t call this album underrated – it climbed all the way to the top of the Billboard Soul Albums chart, and it was a top-10 hit on the Billboard 200, too – but of its two top-10 R&B singles, only “Do Your Dance (Part 1)” crossed over to the pop charts, and it stalled just after entered the top 40,” while “Ooh Boy” stopped at #72. Interestingly, neither of these songs was the album’s big hit across the pond: that honor instead goes to “Wishing on a Star,” which hit #3 on the UK Singles chart.
ROSE ROYCE III: STRIKES AGAIN! (1978) – iTunes || Amazon
This time around, both the US and the UK agreed on which song should end up the biggest hit: “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” which hit #2 in the UK, #5 on the US R&B Singles chart, and #32 on the Hot 100. “I’m in Love (And I Love the Feeling)” was also a #5 R&B single, with “First Come, First Serve” scoring minor success but climbing no higher than #65 on the R&B Singles chart.
ROSE ROYCE IV: RAINBOW CONNECTION (1979) – iTunes || Amazon
Rather than making a joke about how the bloom was off Rose Royce by this point… Whoops, sorry, we just made it. Well, anyway, the single “Is It Love You’re After” hit #13 in the UK, but it only hit #31 on the R&B Singles chart, and it failed to crack the Hot 100. The second single, “What You Waitin’ For,” didn’t chart anywhere, and by the time Rose Royce returned with their next album, they might as well have been called Royce: Rose Norwalt had left the band and begun her pursuit of a solo career.