The Sad Stories Behind Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore"
Marital strife, group turmoil, and the making of a timeless classic.
|Gino Sorcinelli||Jan 29|| 3||2|
Perhaps known best for their 1976 smash “Car Wash,” Los Angeles natives Rose Royce were far from one hit wonders. Sprinkling elements of disco, funk, R & B, and soul throughout their catalog, they also crafted notable hits like "I'm Going Down," "Wishing on a Star," and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" with an incredibly talented lineup of musicians and Gwen Dickey on vocals.
The group’s extensive catalog is begging for exploration in documentary, long-form article, and podcast form, but “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” seems especially ripe for rediscovery due to the pioneering use of a drum machines as a focal point of their production.
I wish I could say with confidence which drum machine Rose Royce employed, but I wasn’t able to successfully verify the exact one. Wikipedia tells me it was the famous Electronic LinnDrum, but that seems impossible given that the wasn’t released until 1982—four years after “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” came out. Roland released the CR-78 in ‘78, but I don’t know enough about the specific sounds it contained to even speculate. Maybe a knowledgeable Micro-Chop reader can help me out.
As impressive as Rose Royce and producer Norman Whitfield’s drum machine implementation is, the most incredible aspect of their beautiful song is really the origin of the lyrics. Written by the late Miles Gregory, the sparse, powerful verses and the gut-punching sadness of the hook come from a difficult domestic situation he endured during the song’s inception.
According to SoulandJazzandFunk.com’s insightful 2015 interview with lead singer Gwen Dickey, Whitfield demanded an unbelievable amount of time and energy from the group—often keeping them in the studio for three or four days in a row. “You had to come to the studio with an overnight bag because you didn't know when you were going to get to leave,” she said.
After one particular 24-hour marathon studio sesion, Gregory and his wife got into a massive fight. According to Dickey, Gregory’s wife told him, “The next time you go to the studio and you stay in there for twenty-four hours and you don't come home I won't be here when you come back because I've had enough of this.”
Sadly, the ultimatum didn’t quite sink in. A few weeks later Gregory and Whitfield hit the studio again for another 24-hour marathon session. Once their assigned tasks were complete, Gregory made his way home and opened his front door to a shocking site—all his furniture was gone.
He initially thought he’d been robbed, but something in his bedroom made him stop dead in his tracks. His wife had written “Love Don't Live Here Anymore” on the bedroom mirror. “The only things in the bedroom were his clothes still hanging in the wardrobe and his guitar was in the corner,” Dickey told SoulandJazzandFunk.com. “He said he sat down and he wrote ‘Love Don't Live Here Anymore’ in tears.”
Gregory’s sad tale of marital woe isn’t the only emotionally heavy situation to influence the sound of the record, as inner turmoil in the group also played a role. Dickey received most of the attention form music journalists and was always chosen by Whitfield to sing vocals during studio sessions, which ultimately led to mounting tension.
Eventually, the discord became too much and the group’s lead singer realized she had to find a different creative situation. “‘Love Don't Live Here Anymore' was one of the last songs that I recorded with the group so I knew after that album and that tour I knew that I was going to be gone,” she told SoulandJazzandFunk.com. “I hadn't said it to anyone but that's why I was kind of upset when I sang it in the studio.”
After the completion of “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” Rose Royce III: Strikes Again! hit shelves in the summer of 1978 and moved a cool 500,000 units. Though Dickey felt like she was done with the group at this point, they managed to squeak out the Norman Whitfield-produced Rainbow Connection IV LP one year later. It was the last time she ever recorded with Rose Royce.
Thankfully, Dickey worked her way back to the industry and eventually released a solo album in 1993. These days the 66-year-old vocalist keeps an active schedule touring despite suffering a devastating spinal cord injury in 2010. Incredibly, she hasn’t let this unfortunate incident stop her from sharing her gift with the world. “I have hurt my back, not my voice,” she told Sarah Oliver in a 2018 Daily Mail interview. “I have faith in the idea that people come to listen to me, not to see me. It doesn’t matter that I’m in a wheelchair or on a stool or using a walker, it’s the music which counts.”
Thanks for reading, see you on Wednesday!