For a woman who composed or collaborated on some 850 songs over seven decades, Rose Marie McCoy, who died Jan. 20 at 92, was largely unheralded, recognized only belatedly in a nationwide radio documentary.
But her songs, spanning R&B, 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, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Mathis, Bette Midler, Elvis Presley, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sarah Vaughan.
"When the rock 'n' roll come in, if you say you wrote rock 'n' roll, everybody wanted to see," McCoy recalled in the documentary, on National Public Radio 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."
When she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, the citation noted that in 2006, when American Songwriter magazine compiled a list of nine all-time great songwriters, she was the only woman.
Rose Marie Hinton was born April 19, 1922, to Levi and Celetia Brazil Hinton in Oneida, Ark. — "the kind of place you pass through without even knowing you're passing through it," McCoy said. Her father was a farmer. In 1942 at 19, she ventured to New York with $6 in her pocket to launch a singing career.
Living in Harlem, she got gigs at nightclubs and eventually at Harlem's Baby Grand, Detroit's Flame Show Bar, Cincinnati's Sportsmen's Club and Toronto's Basin Street, and opened for seasoned performers like Ruth Brown, Moms Mabley, Dinah Washington and Dewey Markham, who was known as Pigmeat.
In her spare time, she wrote songs.
"After All" was recorded in 1946 by the Dixieaires. In the early 1950s, she was signed to Wheeler Records and co-wrote "Gabbin' Blues," which reached No. 3 on the R&B chart. By 1961, she collaborated on Ike and Tina Turner's "I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine," which earned a Grammy nomination for best performance.
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