In 1970, country singer and TV personality Lynn Anderson recorded “Rose Garden” after hearing its original version. However, Anderson’s producer – her husband Glenn Sutton – rejected her recording because he thinks “it was not a girl’s song.”
After much convincing and some extra studio time left, Sutton reconsidered.
“I had objected to it because it was a man’s song, and I didn’t wanna do it, but she kept bringin’ it in with her – she loved it,” he recalled. But they had to rework the track by incorporating an uptempo arrangement that included a string section and mandolin to the first version, which was recorded with a “straight, boring beat.”
After Columbia Records president Clive Davis heard Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” the song was officially released as a single.
And we’re glad they did because Anderson’s version became a big hit.
In the United States, it peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and was a crossover hit after it reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 5 Adult Contemporary. It was also a major hit, climbing the chart’s top spot in several countries, including Canada, Australia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, and Switzerland.
The song also helped Anderson earn the Best Female Country Vocal Performance award during the 1971 Grammy Awards.
Ever since then, “Rose Garden” has been recorded by several notable artists in different styles and musical genres, including k.d. Lang in 1985 and Martina McBride for her album of classic country songs in 2005.
Still, it is Anderson’s recording that is being considered as a country music standard as well as a country-pop signature.
The Original Version of the Song
Written by Joe South, “Rose Garden” tells the tale of someone encouraging her lover to enjoy the good times in their relationship. After all, it will be impossible to avoid the bad times.
“I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine. There’s gotta be a little rain some time. When you take, you gotta give so live and let live,” the song goes.
South then recorded “Rose Garden,” but it was Billy Joe Royal who cut “Rose Garden” first for his studio album Billy Joe Royal featuring Hush. Although the album was released in 1967, the song was never released as a single.
South’s version was only released as an album track in 1968 for his debut studio release, Introspect. South himself produced the session for the song.
You can listen to “Rose Garden” in the video below.
Glenn Sutton, Lynn Anderson