Rosie Mendez-Hamlin [1945- ]
Fourteen-year-old Mexican American Rosie Mendez-Hamlin wrote the melody and lyrics for Angel Baby in 1959. The song became a national hit in 1960.
After recording the song in an airplane hangar with a makeshift two-track studio in the corner, the teenage band Rosie and the Originals found it difficult to find a label to distribute their record. They convinced the manger of a local department store to play the tune in the store's record listening booths. Highland Records took notice of the long lines of teenagers wanting to hear the doo-wop track and offered the band a distribution deal on the condition that Rosie let a label representative be listed as author instead of her. It took a fews year of legal battles for Rosie to get her due.
As a teenager in San Diego, California, her aunt Socorro taught her four chord progressions, honky tonk, boogie and blues on a piano her mother bought her. At 14, Rosie composed the melody for her biggest hit. Her strikingly high nasal and perfectly-tuned vocals combined with the echoing effect of the airplane hangar making the recording stand out from other doo-wop tunes. With Rosie on piano, the perfect pitch of her crystalline voice contrasted with the plodding sax, played by a substitute player who learned the part that day. This early Chicano sock-hop classic continues to define the Chicano "oldies" sound from the greater L.A. area and is sampled in today's Chicano hip-hop.
The song Angel Baby also represents the give and take Chicanas and Chicanos have had with music associated with African Amerian communities. Part of the Chicano repertoire to this day, Angel Baby's angelic vocal delivery reverberated with the girls groups that would come after her. John Lennon, who named Rosie one of his favorite singers, recorded a version of Angel Baby in the mid-1970s.