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(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden: Perfectly Timed for the ’70s and Beyond


(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden was the title track of Lynn Anderson‘s studio album released in 1971. It peaked at no. 1 on the Country Music chart for four weeks, crossed over to other music charts, and became internationally renowned. In fact, the song was termed as among the top five favorites in several countries.

Along with a big chunk of sales and an RIAA Platinum certification, Rose Garden won Lynn Anderson a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. On record, this was the first biggest hit for a female country singer and remained to be for the next three decades.  Lynn’s other “firsts” also included her being the first female country singer to perform on the Tonight Show, the first to sell out the Madison Square Garden, and her winning an American Music Award for Favorite Female Vocalist.

Lynn Anderson went on making more hits and became the ’70s Record World’s Artist of the Decade and Billboard’s Artist of the Decade.

A Not So Rosy Tune Bloomed at a Time of Distress

In an interview with the Associated Press, Lynn Anderson recounted that Rose Garden came out at a time when people were still recuperating from the effects of the Vietnam war. Though a love song, it still was something to touch human emotions. True enough, desperate times would make people want to cling to a spirited tune like the Rose Garden. It became a rallying cry for them to keep hoping and standing even when they’re left with nothing.

“Rose Garden” was a Man’s Song?

Glenn Sutton, producer and husband to Lynn Anderson, did not like the idea of including Rose Garden for the album cut. He thought that it would be best covered by a man as some of the lines had more of a masculine feel. Nevertheless, he reconsidered but not without adjustments on the tempo and the musical accompaniment. Once that’s done, the product was a buoyant track which complemented well Lynn’s husky but sweet vocals. When the song reached the ears of Clive Davis, Columbia Records’ executive, he ordered Rose Garden to be released as a single.

Bluegrass Version (2004)

Lynn Anderson included Rose Garden in her 2004 bluegrass album, The Bluegrass Sessions. This same album featured some of the songs that were dear to us like “Top of the World“, “Paradise,” “Rocky Top” and Lynn’s other top-charting songs, “How Can I Unlove You” and “What a Man My Man Is“.  In 2005, the album was nominated for a Grammy award as Best Bluegrass Album.

Joe South’s Version (1968)

(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden would not have bloomed in the field of music without the creative mind of Joe South. Inspired by the book, “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden” by Joanne Greenberg, he penned and recorded Rose Garden in 1968 for his album, Introspect. Covers followed suit by other male singers including Freddy Weller, Billy Joe Royal, Dobie Gray, Glen Campell, and k.d. Lang.

Lynn Anderson’s success in making Rose Garden a staple song in the mainstream gave South two Grammy nominations, Best Country Song  Song of the Year. South penned two more hits for Anderson, “How Can I Unlove You” and “Fool Me.”

For his valuable contributions, South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1979), Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1981), and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum (2019).

Other Notable Recordings: Billy Joe Royal ( 1967, 1st release), Dottie West (March, 1971), Loretta Lynn, (May, 1971),k.d Lang (1987), Martina McBride (2005) and Stella Parton (2016).

The Lynn Anderson Rose Garden

On October 30, 2015, we lost Lynn Anderson from a cardiac arrest following her battle with pneumonia. Her delicate body was laid in Berry Hill, Tennesse. In her honor,  California rosarian Joe Winchell cultivated and grew roses she called The Lynn Anderson Rose.  Lisa Sutton, Lynn’s daughter, also had a cluster of roses as part of the theme for her mother’s funeral service.

Years passed and Lisa continues to learn more about rose cultivation. Soon, the Nashville Rose Society and the American Rose Society took notice of her works. Jeff Duffer of Dignity Memorial presented Lisa a blueprint of a Country rose garden which she eagerly accepted.  On June 15, 2018, The Lynn Anderson Memorial Rose Garden was introduced to the public. The said date was also the appointed  Lynn Anderson Day by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.