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Forty Years Later, Rose Royce Is Still Talkin' About The Car Wash


If the name "Rose Royce" doesn't ring a bell, the band's biggest hit certainly will: Since hitting the charts in 1976, "Car Wash" is still, even today, one of the most recognizable songs.

Kenny Copeland--founder, trumpeter and male lead singer for the R&B band--says the song came about naturally from the movie of the same name.

Credit Wikipedia

"Our goal was to come up with a song that could accommodate the movie as well as be a good single song for the group," he says. "So we said we were going to load the album up with good songs [so] just in case the movie didn’t hit, [fans] would like the soundtrack!"

Rose Royce actually visited the movie set to get ideas.

"We wanted to come up with something that had a motor, like as you’re going through the car wash, so we came up with the hand claps," Copeland says. "And from there we started building all the different instruments and eventually the song came alive with those ingredients."

Rose Royce created the song after going to the movie set a couple of times. Motown legend Norman Whitfield produced and wrote Car Wash.  Copeland says they were overwhelmed with joy the first time they heard it on the radio. Today, he calls it "the best thing that ever happened to us," and the song still resonates with fans. It even gained a new audience when Christina Aguilera recorded a cover for the 2004 movie "Shark Tale."

"I thank God today that they are still playing it all over, and anybody who wants to identify Rose Royce, if they don’t know anything else, if you mention 'Car Wash,' then they know who you are talking about," Copeland says.

Rose Royce performs at the Grub and Groove Festival on Saturday, Aug. 27, at Jabara Airfield.


Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.