Car Wash – Rose Royce | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#6) & R&B (#1 for 2 weeks); 1976

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

Total Concept Unlimited was a band-for-hire in LA’s hot music scene of the early 1970’s, playing behind various performers. After a tour with Motown’s Edwin Starr, Starr’s producer, Norman Whitfield, hired TCU for some studio work, using them with The Temptations on Let Your Hair Down (#1 R&B, 1974).

The group transformed themselves into Rose Royce in 1976 with a new lead singer (the former Gwen Dickey, renamed Rose Norwalt), and the stage was set for some fame and fortune of their own. Enter the director of Car Wash, who persuaded Whitfield to work on the movie soundtrack.

Whitfield, in turn, brought Rose Royce on board. Inspiration hit Whitfield one evening in the middle of a Kentucky Fried Chicken meal, and he quickly jotted down the lyrics to Car Wash on the food bag.

Even though Dickey/Norwalt thought the song was stupid, Whitfield told her it would make her wealthy. In the end, the movie and album were huge hits, and gave Rose Royce the first of seven R&B Top 10 hits.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2024 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Norman Whitfield

Lyrics Written by:

  • Norman Whitfield


  • 1977 Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album