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Rosie Hamlin (1945–2017)

by Kirk Fox

Songwriter Rosie Hamlin composed and sang the classic song “Angel Baby.”

Rosie Hamlin, the songwriter who composed and sang the classic song “Angel Baby,” died Thursday, March 30, 2017, according to multiple news sources. She was 71.

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 No. 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 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.”

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Rosalie Méndez Hamlin was born July 21, 1945, in Klamath Falls, Oregon. 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” when she was 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. The group found a studio in an old airplane hangar and made the record. The sound on the recording was not that great, however, and they had trouble finding a record label willing to release the song.

Determined to have the song heard, they took the record to the local Kresge’s Department Store. They asked the manager to play the record in the store. Some young adults 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 and the Originals signed their record contract with Highland, the label listed an older male band member as the writer of the song “Angel Baby.” This kept Hamlin from collecting royalties on her song until years later after many legal battles.

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. Hamlin 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 recorded 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.

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