The final day of being lyrically challenged (in more ways than one), thanks to one of my inspirations for blogging, Paula at Light Motifs. If you’re feeling inspired, please do your own challenge and let me know about it! And now for the third song with lyrics I not only paid attention to, but also bothered to learn by heart. But that came later, because when this song first played on the radio back in 1979, it made me cry. Every. Single. Time. This is one song that is on the short list as a song you may play at my funeral (the other songs are mostly happy disco tunes so bring dancing shoes). It is “The Rose” by Bette Midler.
Teen years are intense years, and the evening I saw the movie “The Rose” has moments that I will never forget. I had two friends at the time (I always end up in a trio of two girls and a guy; I’m on my third such grouping), Ann and Grant (hi, Ann!), and we went to see “The Rose”. I drove us to the movie theater in my little Datsun B210. It wasn’t a theater or part of town we had been to before, and we arrived too late for the intended show. So we ended up hanging out in my tiny car because all the stores at the nearby strip mall were closed or uninteresting. Grant told us the worst jokes in the world and I. Still. Remember. Them. Thanks, Grant.
I’m sure we did more than jokes because Ann and Grant could get into some crazy conversations with each other, strictly for entertainment purposes.
And then it was finally time for the next showing to start and we went and saw the movie.
I didn’t understand shit, and I certainly didn’t get that the movie was loosely based on Janis Joplin’s life. I was “Janis who?”. But what I did get was the closing song. The Rose. And the radio stations got it too, and sometimes the tears and the ache that song produced in me every time it played was frustrating.
But that’s how you know it matters: If it stops you in your tracks, if it freezes the moment, if it moves you to tears.
The song could be called a hymn, and I know of some people who thought it was a hymn. The imagery and variety in the lyrics, how nothing repeats itself ever but says the same thing, are a huge part of why I love this song. But the message felt like a commandment to me, a finger pointing out my responsibility in this life. And that’s one reason for the tears. I take my responsibility as a spiritual person seriously. I was trying to do right by the message of “The Rose”.
In later years, the lyrics have mellowed for me, and I no longer cry. Instead, the song describes the gift that each individual can contribute to the greater good. The song is no longer a harsh demand, but a gentle reminder that no matter what, the seed may become more.
And now I am crying again. “The Rose”… you still do that to me.
The Rose Bette Midler
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 afraid of 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 taking, 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 snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose
Songwriters: Gordon Mills The Rose lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group