People often ask me what inspired me to write The Rose. Here is the story:
I was driving down the freeway one afternoon, some time in 1970-something.
I was listening to the radio. A song came on the radio. It was “MAGDALENA” by Danny O’Keefe, sung by Leo Sayer. I liked it immediately. My favorite line was “Your love is like a razor. My heart is just a scar.”I thought,”Ooh, I love that lyric.”
As I continued to drive down the road the thought came, I don’t agree with the sentiment. I don’t think love is like a razor. (I was younger then.) What, then, do I think love is? Suddenly, it was as if someone had opened a window in the top of my head. Words came pouring in. I had to keep reciting them to myself as I drove faster and faster towards home, so I wouldn’t forget them. I screeched into my drive way, ran into the house, past various bewildered dogs and cats and husbands, and sat down at the piano. Ten minutes later, THE ROSE was there.
I called my husband, George, into the room and played it for him, as I always did with my new songs. He listened, and quietly said to me, “You’ve just written a standard.” I protested that no one but my pals would ever hear it. (This is long before I had ever recorded anything.) He said,”Mark my words, something is going to happen with this song.”
A year or so later, a great young songwriter named Michele Brourman, who became my primary musical collaborator and best friend, said “Listen. There is this movie coming out called “The Rose”. They are looking for a title tune. Do you want me to submit this to them?” I had never really tried to submit this song to anyone. I didn’t consider myself a song writer at the time. So I said, “Sure.” Originally the film had been called THE PEARL, which was Janis Joplin’s nick name. But her family refused permission to use that name. Lucky for me. “Pearl” is MUCH harder to rhyme.
She submitted the tune to the producers, who HATED it. They thought it was dull and a hymn and NOT rock and roll and totally wrong. They put it in the reject box. But the divine Paul Rothchild, who was the music supervisor on the film, and had been Janis Joplin’s producer, hauled it out and asked them to reconsider. They again said no. So he mailed it to Bette. She liked it, and that’s how it got into the film and changed my life forever.
I have never written another song as quickly. I like to think I was the window that happened to be open when those thoughts needed to come through. I am eternally grateful… to Bette… to Paul Rothchild… to Bill Kerby, who wrote the screenplay…to my friend who first submitted it for me… and to the Universe for speaking to me in the first place and for showing me what I truly believe.
*Here are the lyrics:
Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed
It’s the heart that fears the breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dying
That never learns to live
When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed
That with the sun’s love, in the spring
Becomes the rose
* To obtain permission for reprinting any of the lyrics to THE ROSE or for their use in any publications or recordings, Contact Warner Chappell at www.warnerchappell.com