This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Honourable Mention Song #19: The Rose by Bette Midler from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Movie, “The Rose” (as Nominated by Barb Henderson).
This post contains the story of four women: Janis Joplin, Bette Midler, Amanda McBroom and my pal, Barb Henderson. I shall tell their tale in order, from Janis to Barb. Regardless of which woman I am discussing at any one time, they are all fabulously talented, strong, intelligent and creative females. I am happy to follow Bette Midler and Amanda McBroom on Social Media and to know Barb Henderson in real life. Here is the story of how all four are connected.
It all begins with singer extraordinaire, Janis Joplin. Janis Joplin had a voice that helped define the musical sound of the 1960s. *(you can read all about her, here). As with any public figure who lived hard, soared to the highest reaches of fame and fortune, only to see it all come crashing down due to addictions to drugs and alcohol, dying far too soon at age 27, Joplin’s was a story that had fascinated many people for years. So, in the early 1980s, it came as no surprise that Hollywood decided to tell her life story in film. The movie was supposed to be called, “Pearl” because that was Joplin’s nickname…..it was, also, the name of the last album she ever released before her death, as well. However, those entrusted with guarding her legacy and her personal estate, let Hollywood know, in no uncertain terms, that they did not have permission to make a movie about her life, nor could they create characters based upon her family, friends and bandmates and, especially, that they were not allowed to use her name and/or nickname in the title of any such film. So, “Pearl”, the movie, was shelved.
But, the idea of making a movie “inspired” by a gravelly-voiced, curly-haired, drug-addicted singer who became the voice of her generation held too much appeal and so, the idea for “Pearl” evolved into a new movie called, “The Rose” starring Bette Midler. “The Rose” is, essentially, Janis Joplin’s life story except that, it isn’t. The producers of the movie went to great lengths to fictionalize her story in all regards; especially when it came to the music that was to be sung. Because the producers weren’t allowed to use any of Joplin’s original music, nor to cover any tunes that even remotely resembled her work, a call was placed for new, original works…..preferably from new songwriters. As a result of this open call, over 3000 demo tapes were submitted. One of those 3000 demo tapes belonged to an aspiring singer-songwriter from Los Angeles named Amanda McBroom.
McBroom had never sold a song before and, at first, wasn’t even sure how to go about submitting a song of hers called, “The Rose”. McBroom wrote “The Rose” in her family home, surrounded by cats and dogs and rabbits and one husband, apparently, after being encouraged by a local L.A. musician to create a tape of her own songs that she could shop around town. She asked her musician friend what sorts of themes were popular sellers in the L.A. market and he replied that all of the best songs are about Love. So, McBroom headed for home with a head filled with thoughts about what exactly Love was. The more she began to answer her own question, the more the song, “The Rose” began to form in her mind. At the time, “The Rose” was just a song that she hoped someone would buy for a couple of hundred bucks. Then, Hollywood came knocking at her door.
McBroom submitted “The Rose” to the production team but, unfortunately, those vetting the 3000 songs (which they were to reduce to an even 100 for Midler and the producers to pick from) rejected McBroom’s song and sent it to the discard pile. But as the production team started combing through the final 100 songs, it was noted that there were no songs with a soaring ballad. The producers especially wanted a grand ballad to play over the closing credits. So, they went through the discarded songs one more time……this time, specifically looking for a soaring ballad song. That is when, “The Rose” was given new life. In fact, when the production team listened to the lyrics more closely and heard McBroom sing about love being like a rose, it caused them to all agree that “The Rose” and “Pearl” shared several similar aspects in common and, just like that, McBroom’s anonymous song changed the course of the whole movie. Joplin’s “Pearl” was now, Midler’s “Rose” and McBroom’s life changed forever.
The song, “The Rose” won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year. It, also, won a Golden Globe Award for Best Song in a Movie. But, “The Rose” did not win an Oscar. In fact, it was not even nominated! That story speaks to the innocence of McBroom, when it came to how to play the Hollywood game. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has rules that must be met in order to someone to be nominated in any of the various categories for which Oscars are awarded. In the case of “Best Song”, one of the criteria is that the song had to be written specifically for the movie. Well, when “The Rose” movie came out, Amanda McBroom found herself the subject of much media attention as the writer of the iconic song from the film. In the course of her interviews, she happily told her story of being a struggling wannabe songwriter, hoping to make it big by shopping her demo tape of songs she had written. As a result of watching these interviews, The Academy ruled McBroom’s song as being ineligible because it was not written specifically for the film. So, even though her song won every conceivable award for movie-related music that year, an Oscar was denied on a technicality. McBroom, however, has never complained about her gaff. She went from a “nobody” to a “somebody” in the blink of an eye and has been never had to shop her songs around town again.
This brings us to my friend, Barb Henderson. I first met Barb about ten years ago. She was a retired educator who was volunteering her time with an organization called, “S.O.N.G.”. The “S.O.N.G. Programme”, as we called it at the school I was teaching at, was designed upon a South American model that helped children in poverty discover the discipline and creative beauty of choral and orchestral music. Because Barb and her colleagues at “S.O.N.G.” ran after-school programmes which many of my own students attended, I got to know her well. She has been a fan of my writing since I used tell my stories using the Blogger platform. Back then, I wrote mainly about Education and children. Since those early days, I have retired and moved over to WordPress. Barb has continued to support my work, while continuing to volunteer with “S.O.N.G.”, as well as, at a Fair Trade store in our town called, “Ten Thousand Villages“. In fact, when the Covid-19 Pandemic first graced our shores back in 2020, Barb was kind enough to offer to make handmade face masks for anyone who wanted some. I asked her for four; one for each member of my family. We still have and use all four of those masks today.
Anyway, for many, many years, Barb was married to a kind-hearted man named Roger. The story is that one day, waaaaaay back in their early days together, when Barb was still deciding if Roger was truly the one for her, he surprised her after school one day with a scroll containing the handwritten lyrics to “The Rose”, curled around a beautiful red rose of her own. Needless to say, Barb decided that Roger was a keeper. I believe there may have been roses grown in their garden, as well.
Music is wonderful. A song like “The Rose” can be a song about love. It can change the lives of those who wrote it (McBroom), those who sang it (Midler…..Grammy Award) and those who listened to it (Barb and Roger Henderson). That a song can touch so many lives in so many different and yet, profound ways, is the magic of music. It is why songs matter.
Thanks, Barb, for nominating such a terrific song and for trusting me to share your story of how “The Rose” impacted your life. As well, thank you for all of your comments, questions and shared stories that you have contributed to this musical countdown journey of ours along the way. Your support of me and my writing has made all the difference and is gratefully-appreciated. Much thanks to you for everything.
So, without further delay, here is Bette Midler, singing an Amanda McBroom song that sealed the union of Roger and Barb……..”The Rose”, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the movie, “The Rose”. Enjoy.
The link to the video to the song, “The Rose” by Bette Midler, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the movie, “The Rose”, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Bette Midler, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Amanda McBroom, can be found here.
The link to the video for the trailer for the movie, “The Rose”, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Janis Joplin, can be found here.
The link to the official website for the “S.O.N.G. Programme”, can be found here.