Rosa moved to Puerto Rico as a youngster and was deeply influenced by the Beatles and the salsa music of his new home. He played in a heavy metal rock band playing covers by the age of 8 but soon joined the legendary Menudo band with Ricky Martin and friends. But Rosa’s interests spread far beyond music, into acting, literature and even painting.
While he made a significant contribution to Menudo, he was also the first of the band’s members to leave the fold. After three years with Menudo, Rosa left during the middle of a tour. He went on for a short stay in Brazil, where he record two solo albums, Rosa moved back to Los Angeles, California, where he started his songwriting career and landed a role in the movie: “Salsa” in 1988. It appears that acting reminded him too much of the artistics constraints that ultimately forced him to leave Menudo, and so he abandoned drama for the music he loved. His musical interests brought him to the alternative band called Maggie’s Dream and another band named Sweet and Low.
His solo debut came with the release of Frio in 1994 on the Sony label. The Spanish language album was recorded in Spain. But Rosa was also very active as a songwriter for other well known artists. Among these was his old friend Ricky Martin who recorded several of Rosa’s songs, including: “Living la Vida Loca” (lyrics), “Maria” (lyrics) and “La Copa de la Vida” (lyrics). These international hits earned three Grammy nominations in 2000. In fact, Rosa was more than songwriter for Ricky Martin; co-producing Martin’s “A Medio Vivir” and “Vuelve” albums.
Rosa’s second solo album, Vagabundo, also in Spanish, was recorded in English and was released in 1996. The project was a personal breakthrough; giving him wide freedom of expression at a time when he had enough maturity as musician and songwriter to fully and properly exploit the opportunity. The product was quite dark and moody but a unique expression of a gifted artist.
His next album, Songbirds and Roosters, in 1998 was his first English language album. Although released several years after his debut Frio album, they were recorded concurrently. The poetic imagery of Vagabundo was carried over to this album and underscored the artist’s own admission that songwriting was setting poetry to music that reaches deeply through his soft voice in songs such as “Nymph”, “Lifeless Clown” and Junkie.
Yet another fascinating aspect of the multi-faceted Rosa is his social and political consciousness. One sign of this is his adamant opposition to the use of Vieques by the United States Navy; a cause supported by many artists and others in Puerto Rico.