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Rosie Gaines Is Essential To Oakland's Musical History

Oakland's own Rosie Gaines is an American singer and musician. After releasing her first album Caring, she was hired by Prince as a singer, vocalist and keyboard player for the Nude Tour in 1990.

She was a member of the original line-up of The New Power Generation formed in 1991. Prince called her his “secret weapon”.

She continued her solo career after leaving the band by releasing six albums. Her most notable hit is "Closer Than Close" released in a remixed form in 1997.

Originally from Pittsburg, California and the younger daughter of ten children, Rosie Gaines began singing at the age of five. Her father was stabbed to death when she was only four years-old. She had a daughter, Latoya, at the age of thirteen.

She began her musical career in the 1980s by participating in various bands ("Unity", "A Touch Of Class" and "The Oasis") between her hometown and Oakland, California. She joined a band lead by Curtis Ohlson (former bass player of Ray Charles and Buddy Rich, with whom she was married for two years), in which Levi Seacer, Jr. also performed as a guitarist.

With Don Cornelius as manager and executive producer, they all worked together on Rosie’s first album: "Caring", released in 1985 by Epic Records.

Its single, "Skool-ology" was a minor success (Position 72 in Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts) but the album flopped. Later in the year, Levi left Curtis Ohlson’s band to join Sheila E. and then Prince subsequent years. Rosie continued to work with Curtis Ohslon, who released two albums on which she added some vocals: "So Fast" in 1987 and "Better Than Ever" in 1989.

In Pittsburg, Rosie Gaines played and became an attraction at local venues as Earle’s Solano Club, Yoshi’s and the Great American Music Hall. A second solo album, in collaboration with Curtis Ohlson and Patrick Moten was finalized and ready for release in 1987 but its release was canceled due to management changes at Epic.

No Sweeter Love would finally be released in 2000.

After divorcing Curtis Ohlson, Rosie married Dutch songwriter Francis Jules.

In December 1989, while working on the Pointer Sisters' Right Rhythm album at Paisley Park, Levi Seacer, Jr. called Rosie to put her voice on a title written by Prince for the group: I Want U.

This song was not retained for Right Rhythm, released in 1990, half-produced by Levi Seacer, Jr. but Prince, having attended the session, was overwhelmed by Rosie’s voice. He invited her to put her vocals on the songs New Power Generation, Diamonds And Pearls as well as songs intended for Elisa Fiorillo's I Am album.

He also asked Rosie to join his new band in anticipation of his upcoming Nude Tour, as a replacement for Boni Boyer, whom left the band following the Lovesexy Tour. Subsequently she also appeared in the film Graffiti Bridge as a band member.

During the Nude Tour, Rosie showed her vocal abilities on many songs ranging from rhythm and blues (Aretha Franklin’s Respect and Ain't No Way), rap (It Takes Two by Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock to Janet Jackson’s What Have You Done For Me Lately.

One of her unreleased songs Let's Jam It was also incorporated in the show.

Many songs were recorded during this tour for Prince’s next album (Diamonds And Pearls) and the idea of a solo album for Rosie - Concrete Jungle, based on a title by her idol Bob Marley - began to emerge with the recordings of songs like Streetwalker, My Tender Love (which became My Tender Heart), Pain, Hold Me, and Turn Your Lights Down Low, a cover of a Bob Marley song.

In the meantime two singles, "Hard Work" and "Clean Up Woman", recorded by Rosie before she joined Prince were released by an obscure label without her consent.

A few weeks after the end of the Nude Tour, Rosie opened Prince's nightclub, the Glam Slam, with a first of three concerts in October 1990.

Prince and Rosie Gaines "Nothing Compares To U"

With Matt Fink, she made the cover of January 1991 Keyboard Magazine issue before Prince changed his backing band line-up and name ( The New Power Generation), hiring Sonny T. and Tommy Barbarella and letting Matt Fink go.

More studio works followed with the recording of songs for Diamonds And Pearls and her solo album (planned to be titled Concrete Jungle.

Together with her husband, Francis Jules and Prince, she composed The Voice and I Hear Your Voice (planned for her solo album but later offered to Mavis Staples and Patti Labelle respectively).

Diamonds And Pearls album was released in October 1991, the first credited to Prince& The New Power Generation : Rosie Gaines was highlighted on more than half of the album with her singing, rapping and co-writing. She was given an prominent role the singles videos and during the tour that followed. Behind the scenes, though, she suffered the bullying of some members of the band who, like during the Nude Tour, seemed to resent her prominent role on stage.

Becoming increasingly frustrated by the income she earned, while she had a family to support, she then had a falling-out with Prince when he discovered that she approached record companies for a possible contract. Rosie Gaines decided to quit The New Power Generation after the Diamonds And Pearls Tour but chose to stay in Prince’s camp, hoping to be able to release her album on Paisley Park Records.

Prince's Diamonds And Pearls, featuring Rosie Gaines

Rosie continued to work on songs with Ricky Peterson as producer and wrote more songs with Francis Jules as Prince was busy with other projects (Symbolblue.png, albums for Mavis Staples, Carmen Electra and The NPG’s Gold Nigga amongst others).

She reworked old songs (I Want U and My Tender Heart) and continued to record new songs, including one offered by Prince (Extraordinary) while the release date of Concrete Jungle on Paisley Park Records is pushed back several times. My Tender Heart, planned as the first single from the album, was performed on The Ryde DyvineTV special at the end of 1992, suggesting a release of Concrete Jungle in 1993.

In early 1993, Carmen Electra's album was released after six months of delay due to Warner's reticence, Prince pushing the project and a disproportionate budget spent : it was a commercial and critical failure. Albums by Mavis Staples, George Clinton and Eric Leeds (Things Left Unsaid) followed, without any significant commercial impact.

After multiple configurations, a firm and final date for Concrete Jungle on Paisley Park Records is announced for 22 March 1994. Unfortunately the release never comes to fruition after the label folds in February 1994.

Concrete Jungle was at that point containing 13 songs: I Want U (Inner City Blue) / Goo gaga (Making It Up As We Go Along) / Ooh La La / My Tender Heart / Hit U In The Socket / Do What You Wanna Do / Concrete Jungle / Get The Ghetto Off Your Mind / JAH Love / The Bitch / In The Middle Of The Garden / I Almost Lost You / Play That Beat.

Prince wrote I Want U, My Tender Heart and Hit U In The Socket. Rosie wrote (or co-wrote with Francis Jules) the other songs except for the title track (a Bob Marley song).

After leaving the Prince camp, Rosie worked on the album further, adding some new songs and removing others. Without a label, she tried unsuccessfully to release the album, now called Try Me in 1994 but gained interest from Motown.

Rosie Gaines smiles for a photo at the "Bammies", or the Bay Area Music Awards. Gaines came to national prominence with her supporting vocals for Prince and the New Power Generation, and released her own solo album in 1995.

In 1995, after further work and changes, Rosie Gaines finally releases her second solo album, now called Closer Than Close, ten years after "Caring".

Closer Than Close contains eight tracks written by the trio of Rosie Gaines, Francis Jules and Dana Bailey, two covers of Bob Marley (Turn Your Lights Down Low and Concrete Jungle), and two songs by Prince (I Want U and My Tender Heart).

More than half of the tracks on Closer Than Close comes various configurations of Concrete Jungle: (Turn Your Lights Down Low, I Want U, Googaga, Oooh La La, My Tender Heart, I Almost Lost You, Concrete Jungle, Get The Ghetto Off Your Mind).

The album did not gain a lot of attention, but the single "Closer Than Close" was released to some success in its remixed version two years later. The song reached position 4 in the UK chart and became a dance-club favorite. Many dance remixes by various DJs were then produced.

Despite the success of the song (almost one million copies sold), Rosie Gaines had to launch a legal action against Peter Williamsons and his label Big Bang Records. The case went nowhere as Peter Williamson was already in jail serving a five-year sentence for theft. The other two singles I Want U and "Are You Ready" had a much more moderate success.

Over twenty remixes of I Want U were cut by unaffiliated producers. A video for My Tender Heart was shot while Gaines was still on Paisley Park Records, but the song wasn't released as a single.

Rosie Gaines continued to work on and off with Prince throughout the years, adding her vocals for the album Chaos And Disorder, Jam Of The Year on Emancipation and the 1999: The New Master single and guests on stage with him occasionally between 1998 and 2001.

In 1997, Rosie Gaines created her own independent label (Dredlix Records) and opened her own website to distribute her music, (now closed). Her third official solo album in February 1997, "Arrival" with 10 songs composed by her with Dana Bailey and her husband Francis Jules (the trio being called the Dredlix team).

Two singles were released from that album : "Stomp" and "Do Not Let'Em". The latter was rerecorded by Boosty Collins in 2002 with Rosie Gaines and Snoop Dogg for his album Play with Bootsy: A Tribute to the Funk.

"Arrival" was pressed on CD with 2,000 copies made and sold exclusively on her website in 2002.

Rosie Gaines in BET interview

In 2000, Expansion Records released her 1987 album "No Sweeter Love" made during her time with Curtis Ohlson and produced by Patrick Moten. The album was ‘lost’ after management changes at Epic Records, but was rescued by the label and released after Patrick Moten’s passing in 1999.

Exploding All Over Europe, written by Prince and Ingrid Chavez in 1990 and remixed by Junior Vasquez was offered for download through Gaines' website. She also offered other unreleased songs and versions, including the original (Paisley Park version) of I Want U.

Many remixes or collaborations with artists in the house scene help her to keep a relative exposure at the end of the 90’s.

In 2004, she published her fifth solo album "You Gave Me Freedom". All the song were written and performed by Rosie Gaines, with the help of the Dredlix team and Scott Gibson.

The transitional album Try Me originally planned for release in 1994 was offered for download on in 2005.

The following year, "Welcome To My World" was released with the house label SUsu. With Francis Jules and Dana Bailey on most tracks, this album contains a remix of "Closer Than Close" and new compositions. None of those albums had any chart impact.

In 2009, the release of the long awaited Concrete Jungle on CD was announced but nothing happened until it was made available as download-album only in 2010. This version contains I Want U, My Tender Heart and the original version of In The Socket(the latter was previously released by the NPG Music Club in a remixed form as Hit U In The Socket).

Since these releases, Rosie Gaines has retracted from the public eye, both on her site and on social networks. She gave her last performance in London in 2011. Her eighth album "Soul Survivor" which combines songs from "You Gave Me Freedom", "Arrival" and new compositions received a low-key release on the internet.

Her health condition had deteriorated through the years. In 2009, she was admitted to the psychiatric ward of a hospital in Rotterdam, after an insulin overdose and seizure. A missing person report was filed by her daughter Latoya Gaines at some point in 2014. Rosie Gaines was found living in a homeless shelter in Richmond, Virginia and she refused housings offered by her friends. During that year, nobody was able to reach her, as she had no telephone and no internet connection. She wasn't able to collect her royalties since her bank accounts were closed and had no clothes except pajamas.

In December 2014, Rosie Gaines was hospitalized again after sustaining a leg infection as a result of halting taking insulin. Her friend and singer Brenda Vaughn organized a fundraiser benefit with dozens of artists mainly from Oakland including Levi Seacer, Jr., Tony Toni Tone’s D’Wayne Wiggins and Maxine Jones of En Vogue in January 2015 at at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in Oakland, California.

Prince got in touch with Rosie Gaines and offered help.

A compilation called “Essential Rosie” was released containing her most known songs, remixes, live versions and an extended version of Hit U In The Socket.

A 20th anniversary edition of Closer Than Close was released with alternate remixes and alternate takes and original versions of the songs Rosie Gaines recorded during her time with Prince for Concrete Jungle : I Want U(Paisley Version), My Tender Love (My Tender Heart Demo), Turn Your Lights Down Low (Alternate Mix).

After Prince’s passing, Prince’s version of Pain was streamed on her Facebook pagebefore she released her own version in June 2016.

Rosie Gaines is reportedly trying to recover mentally and physically in her daughter’s house.

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