look through rose-colored glasses

Tim Rose

Timothy Alan Patrick Rose (September 23, 1940September 24, 2002), best known professionally as Tim Rose, was an American singer-songwriter, who spent much of his life in London, England and had more success in Europe than in his native country. Known for his gruff voice, Rose was often compared to Ray Charles, Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker.

Early years

Tim Rose was born in Washington, DC, and raised by his mother Mary, who worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, his aunt, and his grandmother in an area known as South Fairlington Historic District, in Arlington, Virginia, where he was to meet Scott McKenzie, who lived nearby. Rose learned to play the banjo and guitar, and won the top music award in high school. He trained for the priesthood, but was thrown out of the seminary for inappropriate behavior ("I realized I wasn't going to be the Pope", he said later, "and if you can't be the boss, why join the company?"). Rose graduated from Gonzaga College Prep School, a noted Jesuit institution in DC, class of 1958. From there he joined the United States Air Force (in the Strategic Air Command), in the pre-Vietnam era, and was stationed in Kansas.}} He later worked as a merchant marine on the S.S. Atlantic and in a bank, before becoming involved in the music business.

His first band was The Singing Strings, which included his friend McKenzie, who later joined with John Phillips (eventually of The Mamas & the Papas) in a local group called The Abstracts, later The Smoothies and eventually The Journeymen. Other members of the Strings were Buck Hunnicutt, Speery Romig and Alan Stubbs. In 1962, Rose teamed up with ex-Smoothie Michael Boran as Michael and Timothy. Jake Holmes, Rich Husson and Rose formed a group called The Feldmans, later known as Tim Rose and the Thorns.

The Big 3

Later still, Rose met singer Cass Elliot, also eventually of The Mamas and the Papas, at a party in Georgetown, DC, and formed a folk trio with her and James (Jim) Hendricks initially called The Triumvirate, and later The Big 3. They soon landed a job at The Bitter End, a well-known folk club in New York's Greenwich Village, along with Cafe Wha?, The Night Owl, and The Gaslight Cafe, along with many musicians who lived at the nearby Albert Hotel. Rose described Cass Elliot as the funniest and most talented person he ever met.

Their success grew, with appearances on national TV shows, and they recorded two albums: The Big 3 (1963) and The Big 3 Live at the Recording Studio (1964). Songs included "Grandfather's Clock" and an anti-war dirge "Come Away Melinda" (a re-recorded version of which was one of Rose's most successful solo singles several years later). Rose and Elliot had musical differences – both were inclined to want things done their way – and the band fell apart after Elliot and Hendricks secretly married. They had appeared on 26 national television shows, including Hootenanny (1963), The Danny Kaye Show (1963), and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962). Rose told stories about arguing with Elliot over music saying it would always end her way "because, you know a big woman is never wrong!" Years later in the 1980s when Rose was looking for a singer to produce, Elliot was his model, but he never found anyone quite like her.

Solo career

After The Big Three, Rose went solo, and by 1966, his prospects had improved. In November of that year, he played two gigs at the famous Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco; headlining were the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. CBS Records signed Tim to a multi-album record deal; the first album, Tim Rose, came out in 1967. It featured a new version of "Come Away Melinda" and "Long Time Man" (a version of the traditional "It Makes a Long Time Man Feel Bad", which was also previously recorded with The Big 3) as well as his versions of two songs that would become standards: Billy Roberts' "Hey Joe" and Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew". Both were released as singles, and covered by many artists, from The Grateful Dead to Clannad. Backed up by a trio that included William Lewis Wexler on keyboards and flute, he played Basin Street West in San Francisco and L'Hibou in Ottawa, Ontario. He also played on numerous recording sessions, including backing up Eric Weissberg.

The album was moderately successful but there was no big breakthrough for Rose, who later concluded that the mix of blues, folk and rock made it impossible for the record company to market it.

"Hey Joe"

In 1966, he was getting a lot of airplay with his single of "Hey Joe". The origins of the song are disputed. It was copyrighted in 1962 by singer Billy Roberts, but Rose claimed he heard it sung as a child in Florida, and as of 2007, Rose's website still claims the song is "traditional". Prior to Rose's recording, The Leaves, The Surfaris, Love and The Byrds had all recorded fast-paced versions of the song. Tim's version (crediting himself as author), unlike the others, was a slow, angry ballad, which received US radio airplay and became a regional hit in the San Francisco area in 1966. Jimi Hendrix had seen Rose performing at Cafe Wha? in New York City, and released a similarly slow version in 1967 which became a huge hit, first in the UK, then worldwide. Tim always regarded the Hendrix version as a copy of his, and regretted not having been cut in on the royalties of the song, which would have been substantial if he were the actual composer. Simon Dee, a pirate disc jockey, broke the story in England.

Rose re-recorded "Hey Joe" in the 1990s, re-titling it "Blue Steel .44" and again claiming songwriting credit.

"Morning Dew"

"Morning Dew" was to go on to become a rock standard. Tim heard Fred Neil singing a version of the song penned by Canadian folk singer Bonnie Dobson, arranged it with a harder, rock feel and added his name to the writing credit. This time he managed to legally get a royalty, due to a loophole in US copyright law. Although Dobson consistently questioned his right to a credit, it is unlikely that without Rose's version the song would have become the classic it did, covered by the Grateful Dead, The Jeff Beck Group, Robert Plant, Einstürzende Neubauten, and many others.

Followup works

Another CBS album, Through Rose Colored Glasses, followed in 1969. It met with critical disappointment and did not sell well. Love: A Kind of Hate Story was recorded at Island Studios in London and released in 1970. In addition to his musical career, by now Rose had moved to London and would spend much of his life there. Other albums followed in the decade: Another, different album titled Tim Rose (1974), The Musician (1975), and the bootleg Unfinished Song (1976). The master tapes for the short Unfinished Song were stolen and sold to a small record company who released the album without Rose's permission and without paying him any royalties.

In the early 1960s Columbia records chose between Rose and Dylan to promote, and despite the fact that Tim was prominent in the singer/songwriter period in Greenwich Village, Dylan received the deal. At one point Tim was offered to record Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright", but turned it down.

In 1968, while his song "Roanoke" was getting some airplay in the UK, Rose was considered while replacements were being selected for Brian Jones's place in The Rolling Stones.

Tim worked in the late 1960s and 1970s with sidemen Bob Bowers, Felix Pappalardi, Alan Seidler, Tina Charles, Pierre Tubbs, B. J. Coles, Michael Winn, Colin Winston-Fletcher, Micky Wynne, John Bonham, Aynsley Dunbar, Alex Damovsky, John McVie, Andy Summers, Eric Weissberg, Russ Kunkel, Randall Elliot, and Pete Seers, and appeared on bills with Traffic, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, The Doors, Uriah Heep, Johnny Mathis, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Procol Harum, The Grateful Dead, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, The Band of Joy, Tim Hardin, William Lewis Wexler, and many more.

At one time, George Harrison of The Beatles was to produce an album for Rose, though this did not ultimately happen.

The lost years

By the late 1970s, his career had stalled. He recorded The Gambler in 1977, with a group that included guitarist Andy Summers, only to find that the record company refused to release it. He returned to New York for a number of years, living in Hell's Kitchen on Restaurant Row, and then much later Lincoln Square near Central Park. Having lost his contacts in the music industry, he was forced to work as a construction laborer until an opportunity arose to sing jingles for TV commercials in early 1980. Rose sang on many jingles, including Big Red Gum and Wrangler Jeans, and voiced ads for the Big Apple Circus. This work funded his much-delayed college education, which he began at the age of 40. Rose graduated in 1984 from Fordham University at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, with a degree in history. He became a Wall Street stockbroker and a teacher, got married, and eventually divorced. After the 1987 stock market crash, he got out of the business. He continued writing and performing at select venues, such as The Bitter End. He battled with alcoholism and these years were often not happy ones.


By the late 1980s, Rose had reached the lowest point in his career. After his marriage broke up, he gave up drinking. In 1986, Nick Cave included "Long Time Man", a version very close to Rose's, on the album Your Funeral, My Trial. According to Rose, Cave had initially been under the impression that Rose had died years before. However, Cave went on to assist Rose in recovering his career, and encouraged him to play live shows again.

By the 1990s, things were beginning to look up. In 1991, The Gambler was finally released. In 1996, encouraged by Cave and by Dutch film makers Suzan Ijermanns and Jacques Laureys, he returned to Europe and played a small but well-regarded gig at the Half Moon, Putney. Rose later performed at the Guildford Festival, and the Glastonbury Festival as well. He went on to perform at the Royal Albert Hall opening for Cave, and at the Shepherds Bush Empire and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London with co-writer and guitarist Mickey Wynne. A new album, Haunted, was released with recordings from these performances as well new studio material produced by Cave. He also appeared on the BBC show Later with Jools Holland, and performed with Led Zeppeliner Robert Plant's folk-rock band, Priory of Brion. By the late 1990s to early 2000s, most of his back catalog had been re-released (some as double albums), and were available both in record stores and from Tim's own web site, Tim-Rose.co.uk.

The new century began hopefully for Rose. He began an extensive tour of small venues in the British Isles, and sometimes further afield. In April 2001, the Tim Rose Band was the opening act at the Bergen Blues and Jazz Festival in Norway. Jacques Laurey's biopic about Rose, Where Was I?, was premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival in the same year. His final solo album, American Son, was released in February 2002 to some acclaim, but again not very many sales.

The CD Not Goin' Anywhere by Norwegian band Headwaiter, featuring four songs with lyrics by Tim Rose and a duet with the lead singer Per Jorgenson, was released in Norway in September 2002.


In 2002, Rose had completed a successful tour of Ireland and had a number of gigs planned around the UK. He died at Middlesex Hospital, London of a heart attack during a second operation for a lower bowel problem on September 24, 2002 at age 62. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

He had no children. A number of recordings featuring Tim were released after his death.



  • The Big Three, 1963
  • The Big Three Live at the Recording Studio, 1964
  • Tim Rose, 1967
  • Through Rose Colored Glasses, 1969
  • Love - A Kind of Hate Story, 1970
  • Tim Rose, 1974
  • The Musician, 1975
  • Unfinished Song, 1976
  • The Gambler, 1977 / 1991
  • I've Got To Get A Message To You, 1987
  • Haunted, 1997
  • American Son, 2002
  • Not goin' anywhere, 2002 [Headwaiter]
  • Snowed In, 2003
  • The London Sessions 1978 - 1998, 2004
  • Mirage, 2004


  • 1966 - I'm Bringing it Home / Mother, Father, Where are You?
  • 1966 - Hey Joe / King Lonely the Blue
  • 1966 - I Gotta do Things My Way / Where Was I?
  • 1967 - I'm Gonna Be Strong / I Got a Loneliness
  • 1967 - Morning Dew / You're Slipping Away from Me
  • 1967 - Long Time Man / I Got a Loneliness
  • 1967 - Come Away Melinda / unknown
  • 1968 - Long Haired Boy / Looking at a Baby
  • 1968 - I Guess it's Over / Hello Sunshine
  • 1969 - Roanoke / Baby Do You Turn Me On
  • 1970 - I Gotta Get a Message to You / Ode to an Old Ball
  • 1972 - You've Got to Hide Your Love Away / If I Were a Carpenter
  • 1973 - You've Got to Hide Your Love Away / It Takes a Little Longer
  • 1975 - The Musician / 7:30 Song
  • 1975 - The Musician / It's Not My Life That's Been Changin'
  • 1975 - Morning Dew / 7:30 Song
  • 1979 - Tim guested on the single Boys On The Dole by punk band Neville Wanker and the Punters.


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