Bette Midler – “The Rose” Lyrics Meaning

Photo of author
Written By Brendan Briggs

Brendan is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. In 2022, he released his first album "Dive" under the name "Arctotherium".

“The Rose” is a sentimental meditation about the nature of love and how it affects people. The genius of the lyrics is in their touching simplicity and great use of symbolism. The song focuses on how love is a strong force that shows itself in many ways. It explains that we must open our hearts if we ever want to be loved back and that we should never give up hope if we’re alone for the moment.

Amanda McBroom had the idea for the track for about a year before finalizing it. When asked to come up with something for the 1979 film, The Rose, McBroom obliged and created the song we know today. For a piece of music with such a simple origin story, it sure manages to tug at the heartstrings of many. The track was, of course, made famous by Bette Midler’s performance in the film.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at these poetic lyrics to decipher their hidden meaning. We’ll also take a look at the universal themes that keep this song relevant and the songwriting story. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

“The Rose” Lyrics Meaning

The song begins by offering various opinions about the nature of love. The goal isn’t to say that any one of these is superior. Instead, it’s to point out the commonalities in all of them.

For example, comparing love to a “river that drowns the tender reed” shows love to be a force of nature. It can sometimes crush delicate things (or people) in its wake. Similarly, calling it a “razor that leaves your soul to bleed” carries the same message. Love can absolutely hurt us, possess us, and cause us “endless aching need.”

Verse one ends with the narrator’s personal confession. She tells a listener that he is the “only seed” that sprouts into the flower of her love. It’s a promise of devotion and a tender compliment.

In verse two, the focus shifts. The lyrics begin discussing how important it is to open yourself up in order to experience love. It’s the “heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.” Essentially, if inhibitions get in the way, a person can easily find themselves paralyzed and lonely indefinitely.

The verse goes on to discuss how “the one who won’t be taken” simply “cannot seem to give.” This is a clever play on words, but it also has a deep message. If a person doesn’t allow themselves to get carried away by their affection for someone else, they will never express it enough for it to be reciprocated.

Verse three is the most symbolic of the sections. It is devoted to comforting those who are lonely with the hope of love in the future. When the “night has been too lonely,” it can be easy to lose hope. Further, one could begin to think that “love is only for the lucky and the strong.”

What should we do in this situation? Have patience and hope. “Beneath the bitter snows,” there may be seeds waiting that later become “the rose.” This will require the “sun’s love,” but it’s only a matter of time before the season changes.

Simply put, the snow represents the difficulties that are preventing love from growing. The “seed” represents a future love that is waiting to awaken, and the “rose” is the culmination of that relationship.

Everyone can understand the difficulty of waiting for love to come along. Whether you’re in that spot right now or can remember a time in the past, there’s something in these lyrics that’s universal. It’s this emotional relatability that the song owes its success to.

The Story Behind “The Rose”

According to Amanda McBroom, she wrote the song under fairly simple circumstances. After hearing “Magdalena” sung by Danny O’Keefe on the radio, a particular lyric stuck out to her. He compared love to a razor, and McBroom didn’t “agree with the sentiment.”

While rushing home, she began working out the concept in her head. After arriving, she sat down at the piano and went to work. She asserts that the song was there just “ten minutes later.” She excitedly played it for her husband, who promised her that she had struck gold.

It wasn’t until about a year later that she was contacted to create something for the 1979 film, The Rose. This means that while the film is loosely inspired by Janis Joplin, the song is not.

Bette Midler’s performance of the track in that film gave it serious notoriety. This version has since gone on to be a massive commercial and critical success. It is both a Grammy winner and a Billboard Top 100 charter, peaking at #3.

It’s hard to believe that a track suitable for anything from a wedding to a funeral could have such simple origins. The next time you play this sentimental tune, let these little bits of musical history make it even more special!