*Ask Gwen Dickey about her stint as the lead vocalist of the 70’s group Rose Royce and she will recount numerous highs as well as internal lows.
Although, the group secured a place in music history with hits like “Car Wash,” “I’m Going Down,” “Wishing on a Star” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” the accomplishments were not without conflict between Dickey and fellow members Kenny Copeland, Terral “Terry” Santiel, Lequeint “Duke” Jobe, Henry Garner, Michael Moore, Kenji Brown, Freddie Dunn and Michael Nash.
“They weren’t happy that [former Motown record producer/songwriter] Norman [Whitfield] brought me in and made me the focal point of the group, the fact that I didn’t know that they wanted to be an instrumental group, ” Dickey told EUR’s Lee Bailey regarding Rose Royce’s initial aspirations under its former name, Total Concept Unlimited. ” From my limited knowledge of a band that became very famous just being an instrumental band because even people like Santana and people who they admired like Kool and the Gang, even they had lead a singer. They were not just an instrumental band.”
Dickey’s stint with Rose Royce is one of many developments chronicled during the season premier of the hit TV One docu-series “Unsung.” In addition to the songbird, the episode will feature interviews with other members of the group as it highlights its rise to fame in the mid-70s, its relationship with Whitfield as and its ability to remain together even after Dickey’s departure at the height of the band’s success. The songstress currently lives in England.
According to Copeland and other Rose Royce members, Dickey was fired and refused to perform or record for years. Dickey denies the claims of her former bandmates, saying she had “already quit” and left Rose Royce.
“I found that quite hilarious … but of course, you allow people their 15 minutes of fame,” said Dickey, who was “very much” impressed with the “Unsung” episode overall.
“He was embellishing the truth because early on I had said that I had left the group because the animosity and the discomfort that I was feeling from them, that they didn’t want me any longer in the group, This was after “Car Wash,” after “Wishing on a Star.” And by the time “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” had came about, it was (clear) to me that they didn’t want me around. They wanted the band to be the way they originally wanted it.”
Despite their desire to be an instrumental unit, Dickey revealed the idea would not come to fruition in light of Whitfield’s desire to combine vocals and music with a lead singer for Rose Royce.
“They were phenomenal musicians but they were never going be superstars as an instrumental band. And Norman was never going to put time into them just as a group of musicians,” Dickey said. “If it hadn’t have been me it would’ve been another female or guy but there was always going to be a lead singer in that band because he had been auditioning females to be in that group before I was even ever heard of.”
Despite her rocky time with Rose Royce, Dickey emerged as a solo star with a successful career overseas and an active position as the lead singer of Gwen Dickey’s Rose Royce. She hopes to return to the US to be closer to her family as well as work on a new solo album sometime this year.
As for her original groupmates, the singer simply labeled the current relationship as “cordial.”
Over the years, songs from Rose Royce have been covered by the likes of Mary J. Blige (“I’m Going Down”), Faith Evans (“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”) and Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott (“Car Wash”). Another noticeable cover was done in 2004 by Beyonce Knowles, who later recorded the tune for her album, “Beyonce: Live at Wembley” and used it for a commercial promoting Tommy Hilfiger’s True Star perfume.
Although she found Knowles’ version “interesting,” Dickey mentioned how the new take on her hit fell a bit short compared to another remake.
“I didn’t feel any magic as I did when I heard Christina and Missy’s ‘Car Wash.’ I just thought it was ‘cute,'” said the admitted Beyonce fan, who added that her only exposure to Beyonce’s redo was through the Hilfiger commercial. “I was proud that she actually chose a classic song like that to sell her perfume. So I was quite pleased about that, but I wasn’t over the moon about the performance.
“I think, just from the brief time that I saw it, that it was portrayed as something, as a seductive song that… Everybody knows this song and she portrayed it in a seductive way to draw you in to get attention to sell her perfume,” Dickey continued.
The season premiere of “Unung,” featuring Rose Royce, will air at 9 p.m. tonight (March 22) on TV One.
Watch Gwen Dickey & Rose Royce perform ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ and ‘Wishing On A Star':
‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’
‘Wishing On A Star':
Bonus: ‘Wishing On A Star’ — Beyonce’s version: