Music Friday: How ‘Diamond Ring’ Lyrics Nearly Derailed Lynn Anderson’s ‘Rose Garden’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we recount the story of how country music legend Lynn Anderson nearly lost an opportunity to record what would become her signature song — “Rose Garden” — due to the “diamond ring” lyrics in the second verse.

Anderson was a big fan of “Rose Garden,” a tune penned in 1967 by Joe South and recorded by South and two other male artists from 1967 through 1969. She wanted to cover it for an upcoming album, but her producer (and husband) Glenn Sutton was adamant that “Rose Garden” was not a “girl’s song” because of a key line that went like this: “I could promise you things like big diamond rings / But you don’t find roses growin’ on stalks of clover / So you better think it over.”

“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,” Sutton told author Michael Kosser in the book, How Nashville Became Music City U.S.A (2006).

As luck would have it, Anderson had some extra time left in one of her studio sessions, and Sutton finally relented — with a few conditions. He insisted on adding an up-tempo arrangement accompanied by a mandolin player and a full string section.

Columbia Records executive Clive Davis was so impressed with the recording that he insisted the song be released as a single in October of 1970 for the country and pop markets.

The song not only topped the U.S. Billboard Country chart, but it also reached #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and became a major hit internationally. It went to #1 in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and Norway. “Rose Garden” is considered one of the most successful country crossover songs of all time.

Anderson told the Associated Press in 1987 that “Rose Garden” was perfectly timed to appeal to the youth of 1970.

“It was popular because it touched on emotions,” Anderson said. “It was [released] just as we came out of the Vietnam years and a lot of people were trying to recover. This song stated that you can make something out of nothing. You take it and go ahead.”

The song’s reprise, “I never promised you a rose garden,” essentially means “I never told you it was going to be easy.”

In 2019, Rolling Stone magazine included “Rose Garden” on its list of the “20 Songs That Defined the Early Seventies.”

“Rose Garden” netted Anderson a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1971, while South picked up two Grammy nominations, one for “Best Country Song” and the other for “Song of the Year.”

Born in Grand Forks, N.D., Lynn Rene Anderson generated crossover hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and continued to tour until her death in July 2015 at the age of 67.

Singer Dolly Parton said at the time, “Lynn is blooming in God’s Rose Garden now. We will miss her and remember her fondly.”

Check out the video of Anderson’s terrific live performance of “Rose Garden” in 2011. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along. Enjoy!

“Rose Garden”
Written by Joe South. Performed by Lynn Anderson.

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
Or let go oh-whoa-whoa-whoa
I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden

I could promise you things like big diamond rings
But you don’t find roses growin’ on stalks of clover
So you better think it over
Well if sweet-talkin’ you could make it come true
I would give you the world right now on a silver platter
But what would it matter
So smile for a while and let’s be jolly
Love shouldn’t be so melancholy
Come along and share the good times while we can

I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine
There’s gotta be a little rain some time

I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden

I could sing you a tune and promise you the moon
But if that’s what it takes to hold you
I’d just as soon let you go
But there’s one thing I want you to know
You better look before you leap, still waters run deep
And there won’t always be someone there to pull you out
And you know what I’m talkin’ about
So smile for a while and let’s be jolly
Love shouldn’t be so melancholy
Come along and share the good times while we can

I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine
There’s gotta be a little rain some time,
I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden

Credit: Photo by Mikiesmonkey, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s