Rosie Hamlin 1945 – 2017

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Rosie Hamlin, singer and songwriter of the classic song “Angel Baby,” has died at 71, according to multiple news sources.

Hamlin was the lead singer of the group Rosie and the Originals whose “Angel Baby” was a hit song in 1960-1961. The song peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the end of January, 1961.

Hamlin’s daughter confirmed her mother’s death on the group’s official website. She passed away on March 30, 2017.

“She didn’t perform anymore, and had removed herself from the music scene because of health concerns. She did still paint and tended a very lovely garden. She will be greatly missed by so many,” Hamlin’s daughter wrote. “Thank you for all your wishes and time and kind words. It meant a lot to her.

Hamlin was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon on July 21, 1945. Her father and grandfather had musical backgrounds. Her first singing job was in a country western band.

According to her website biography, Hamlin wrote “Angel Baby” at the age of 14. The song was about teenage love. She had been playing with some musicians in San Diego. They decided to go out and make a recording of the song. They found a studio in an old airplane hangar and made the record. The sound on the recording was not that great and they had trouble finding a record label to release the song.

Determined to have the song heard, they took the record to Kresge’s Department Store. They asked the manager to play the record in the store. Some kids in the store liked what they heard and asked where they could buy the record. Coincidentally there was a man at the store who was a distributor for Highland Records. When Rosie signed the record label contract with Highland, they listed an older male bandmember as the writer of the song “Angel Baby.” This kept her from collecting royalties on her song until years later after many legal battles.

She wrote “Angel Baby” at age 14 and recorded it with a group of relatives: David Ponci and Noah Tafolla on guitar and Tony Gomez on bass. Carl Von Goodat later joined on drums and and Alfred Barrett on saxophone.

Rosie and the Originals moved to Brunswick Records at the invitation of singer Jackie Wilson. The band opened for the Rolling Stones at a 1964 concert in San Diego. Rosie recorded an album with guitarist Noah Tafolla, who became her husband. Later she would record and perform occasionally.

The song was covered by John Lennon and released posthumously on the album “Menlove Ave.” in 1986. In Lennon’s intro to the song he says, “This here is one of my all-time favorite songs.” “Send my love to Rosie, wherever she may be.” Linda Ronstadt and System of a Down also did cover versions of the song.

Hamlin wrote on her website that she was the first Latina to appear on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” show.

 Published in The Desert Sun on Mar. 31, 2017
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