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Rose Marie McCoy, a Songwriter for Pop and Jazz, Dies at 92

 
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Rose Marie McCoy, a Songwriter for Pop and Jazz, Dies at 92
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royal1



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Rose Marie McCoy, a Songwriter for Rock, Pop and Jazz Legends, Dies at 92


By SAM ROBERTS

JAN. 31, 2015


Rose Marie McCoy was a collaborator on some 850 songs.

For a woman who composed or collaborated on some 850 songs over seven decades, Rose Marie McCoy, who died on Jan. 20 at 92, was largely unheralded, recognized only belatedly in a nationwide radio documentary.

But her songs, spanning rhythm and blues, rock ’n’ roll, jazz and gospel, were widely heard, recorded by scores of singers including Big Maybelle, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Bette Midler, Elvis Presley, and Ike and Tina Turner.

“When the rock ’n’ roll come in, if you say you wrote rock ’n’ roll, everybody wanted to see,” Ms. McCoy recalled in the documentary, heard on NPR in 2009. “They wanted to hear what you had. And if they liked it, they didn’t care whether you’re black or white. We thought it was the blues, and they used to call it rock ’n’ roll. I still don’t know the difference.”

Rose Marie Hinton was born on April 19, 1922, to Levi and Celetia Brazil Hinton in a tin-roof shack in Oneida, Ark. — “the kind of place you pass through without even knowing you’re passing through it,” Ms. McCoy said. Her father was a farmer. In 1942, when she was 19, she ventured to New York with $6 in her pocket to begin a singing career.

Living in Harlem and supporting herself by ironing shirts at Chinese laundries there and in the Bronx, she got gigs at nightclubs and eventually at the Baby Grand in Harlem, the Flame Show Bar in Detroit, the Sportsmen’s Club in Cincinnati and Basin Street in Toronto. She opened for seasoned performers like Ruth Brown, Moms Mabley, Dinah Washington and Pigmeat Markham.

In her spare time, she wrote songs.

“After All” was recorded in 1946 by the Dixieaires with Muriel Gaines. In the early 1950s, she was signed to Wheeler Records and was a co-writer of “Gabbin’ Blues,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart. She began collaborating with Charlie Singleton, meeting daily at 6 a.m. in a booth at Beefsteak Charlie’s, near the Brill Building, the music industry temple north of Times Square. They wrote the 1954 ballad “Tryin’ to Get to You” for the Eagles, a black vocal group, but then RCA Records signed a young singer who agreed to include the song in his repertoire.

“We thought he was terrible, because we thought he couldn’t sing,” Ms. McCoy recalled.

The singer was Elvis Presley. The song was included on his first studio album for the label, which spent 10 weeks atop the Billboard pop album chart in 1956. The song concludes:

Lord above me knows I love you

It was He who brought me through

When my way was dark at night,

He would shine His brightest light.

When I was trying to get to you.

By 1961, when Ms. McCoy collaborated on Ike and Tina Turner’s “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” which earned them a Grammy nomination, she had her own office in the Brill Building. The song includes the lines:

Darling, it’s time to get next to me

Darling, I never thought that this could be

Your lips set my soul on fire

You could be my one desire

Oh darling, I think it’s gonna work out fine.

In the 1970s, several songs she helped write were included on the jazz singer Sarah Vaughan’s album “Send In the Clowns,” and she composed jingles, including one sung by Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles for Coca-Cola. Just a few years ago, she and the country singer Billy Joe Conor wrote the songs on his debut album.

Ms. McCoy married James McCoy, a supervisor at the Ford Motor Company, in 1943. He died in 2000. She lived in Teaneck, N.J., until several years ago, when she joined a niece, Helen Brown, in Illinois. She died in Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Ms. Brown said.

In the radio interview, Ms. McCoy said she would still wake up in the middle of the night with whole new songs in her head.

“I should’ve got up and wrote it down,” she said. “But you say: ‘What’s the use? Like, I’m retired now.’ ”


Correction: February 2, 2015
An earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to Elvis Presley’s recording of “Trying to Get to You,” a song Ms. McCoy wrote with Charlie Singleton. It was included on an album by Presley that spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart; the song itself never reached No. 1. It also referred incorrectly to the singer Sarah Vaughan’s album “Send In the Clowns.” Ms. McCoy co-wrote several of the songs on that album with other writers; she did not co-write the entire album with Ms. Vaughan. And it misstated the location of the laundries where Ms. McCoy worked after moving to New York in 1942. They were in Harlem and the Bronx, not New Jersey
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