“The Rose” was first recorded by Bette Midler for the soundtrack of the 1979 film The Rose in which it plays under the closing credits. However the song was not written for the movie: Amanda McBroom recalls, “I wrote it in 1977 [or] 1978, and I sang it occasionally in clubs. … Jim Nabors had a local talk show, and I sang [“The Rose”] on his show once.” According to McBroom she wrote “The Rose” in response to her manager’s suggestion that she write “some Bob Seger-type tunes” to expedite a record deal: McBroom obliged by writing “The Rose” in forty-five minutes. Said McBroom: “‘The Rose’ is … just one verse [musically] repeated three times. When I finished it, I realized it doesn’t have a bridge or a hook, but I couldn’t think of anything to [add].”
McBroom’s composition was one of seven songs selected by Midler from thirty song possibilities proffered by Paul A. Rothchild, the producer of The Rose soundtrack album. Reportedly Rothchild had listened to over 3,000 songs in order to assemble those thirty possibilities.
Released as the second single from The Rose soundtrack album, “The Rose” hit number 1 on the Cashbox Top 100 and peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Additionally, it was number 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for five weeks running. The single was certified Gold by the RIAA for over a half million copies sold in the United States.
Midler won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “The Rose”, beating out formidable competition from Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer among others.
There are two mixes of the song. The single mix features orchestration, while the version in the film (and on its soundtrack) includes an extended introduction while doing away with the orchestration in favor of piano-and-vocals only.
“The Rose” did not receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Despite not having been recorded prior to the soundtrack of the film The Rose, the song had not been written for the film. According to McBroom, AMPAS inquired of her if the song had been written for the movie, and McBroom answered honestly (that it had not). McBroom did however win the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for “The Rose”, as that award’s governing body, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), does not share AMPAS’ official meticulousness over a nominated song’s being completely original with its parent film.
In 2004 “The Rose” finished #83 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of the top tunes in American cinema