The world kind of sucks right now. My personal world hasn’t been a bed of roses lately, either. (I’m assuming the phrase “bed of roses” refers to the soft petals and not the thorny bush. And my choice of metaphors will make sense in a moment.) I’m not denying any of it, and I’ll probably post something about it soon. I just don’t want to be sad and angry right now. Which is why I’m posting this song.
“Love is Rose” is a Neil Young song, but Linda Ronstadt owns it. I’ve always preferred her version anyway. Like Neil, his version of the song tends to be kind of prickly; his focus seems to be on the thorns and not the flowers. “Love is a rose, but you better not pick it” seems to be sound advice as far as he’s concerned. Fool around to your heart’s content, but don’t fall in love; it’ll only end in tears when you gash your hand open and bleed all over the place while screaming in pain.
In Ronstadt’s version, that line is also a warning but the emphasis is different. Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love, but don’t try to own me. Don’t imprison me in your world. Let me grow and thrive in my own environment. If you do try to cut me off from the things that made you want me in the first place, I will cut you. Her version is more joyful somehow, more about the cooperation a relationship requires. “Give me a lift, and I’ll hay your wagon” is mostly a metaphor for sex, but it’s also an idea about how two people can work together to make something good happen.
Since Neil Young wrote the words, the interpretation of the songs could be exactly the same. But the slower pacing gives Young’s version a more cautious, unhappy feel. Ronstadt’s delivery and choice of arrangement makes “Love is Rose” softer and more buoyant. I know part of the reason I like her version better is because I heard it first. But I also enjoy the carefree tone. There’s an edge, but you aren’t going to hurt yourself too badly on it. At least, you won’t as long as you give her a little breathing room, enough to drink, and lots of sunshine.