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"Car Wash"
Rose Royce
MCA 40615
Jan. 1977
Billboard: #1    Lyrics Icon Videos Icon

Rose Wash," the theme song form the move of the same title, begins much the way a car starts out on its way to getting cleaned. First, there's the percussion, only the handclaps and drums. Then comes the bass and guitar, just as the brushes are working over the body. And as the car has been pulleyed along to the rinse stage, where the last bits of foam and grime are wiped from the surface, the instruments moved into a crescendo of funky sound that gets and keeps you dancing.

Car Wash - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The 1976 Car Wash soundtrack album first charted on Oct. 9, 1976, peaking at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 200 and staying on the charts for 40 weeks. In addition to its number one title track, it also featured the Top 10 hit "I Wanna Get Next to You" and the minor single "I'm Going Down."
"I tried to fit the mood of the music with the thing that was happening on the screen at the time," says Norman Whitfield, who wrote and produced the Car Wash soundtrack. "In one scene, for instance, you've got the owner's son trying to fit in with the rest of the men working on the line -- only they're there out of necessity, not by choice, like him.

"Then, at another place, you've got the tension created when one of the guys tries to talk another out of holding the place up. And all the time the music has got to fit the mood."

news picNew York-born Whitfield, long one of Motown's masterminds, composed five of the label's number one singles before moving on to create his own label. He co-wrote and produced Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and Edwin Starr's "War." He began working with the Temptations in the mid-'60s, first assembling landmark records like "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and "I Wish It Would Rain," then guiding them to a grittier, psychedelic-soul sound, heavily influenced by Sly and the Family Stone. His efforts paid off in three chart-toppers for the Temptations, "I Can't Get Next to You," "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone."

In the early '70s, Whitfield put together eight male musicians as a recording and touring unit to back up the Temptations. On horns were Michael Moore, Freddie Dunn and Kenny "Captain Cold" Copeland. Kenji Chiba Brown was lead guitarist and Lequeint "Duke" Jobe played bass, with Mike Nash on keyboards, Terral "Powerpack" Santiel on percussion and Henry "Hammer" Garner on drums. Whitfield titled the ensemble Rose Royce and soon added a powerful singer, Gwen Dickey, to handle lead vocals.

When he was hired to score Car Wash, Whitfield tabbed the new group to perform on the soundtrack, along with the Pointer Sisters. Featuring non-stop disco/funk music, the 1976 comedy captured a day in the life of a Los Angeles car wash, following the men who worked there and their eccentric customers.

"Car Wash" entered the Hot 100 at number 86 on October 23, 1976, and arrived at number one 14 weeks later. Rose Royce's next two singles were also from the film. "I Wanna Get Next to You" peaked at 10 and "I'm Going Down" did, right after it reached number 70. Their next three chart singles appeared on the Whitfield label, distributed by Warner Brothers. Their final chart entry, "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" (number 32 in February, 1979) has been covered often, most recently by Madonna.

- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.

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