Look around you. The west coast is filled with front lawns decorated by fallen leaves and holiday trinkets. The surfaces of the east coast are more than likely covered with snow and steam, as heat escapes from the sewers. These are undoubtedly tell-tale signs that New Year’s Day is approaching quicker than we thought.
One of my favorite events to kick off the new year is the Rose Parade. As the city of Pasadena, California is adorned with floats constructed of flowers, the rest of the country watches in awe. But, why is everything made of roses? Why is it called the Rose Parade? And why is one of the most celebrated football games of the year called The Rose Bowl?
What is it about roses that make them so special? Ancient Romans used them as room decorations and believed that anything said “under the rose” was deemed to be top secret. Roses have also been widely known as the symbol of love, and roses are deemed so special that they are one of very few flowers to ever be mentioned in the Bible. Nevertheless, they cause bleeding if you pick them carelessly. Just as we send them to weddings, we send them to funerals. And as the red rose symbolizes love and purity, black roses often symbolize bereavement and mortality.
But throughout history, hundreds if not thousands of artists from every industry have presented the rose in different contexts. A few of our favorite platinum selling artists have even used the rose as their musical muse. Here are three songs by three iconic artists:
1. Tupac Shakur — "The Rose That Grew From Concrete"
Painting a picture of obstacles like social imbalance, economic hardship and ethnic oppression as concrete, Tupac’s symbol of beauty was the rose that grew from it. Despite being planted under solid rock, that rose persistently sought growth. Maneuvering over and around its hard-walled obstacles, it still developed through the small cracks that shed light.
In this poem, Tupac is that rose and the concrete is the ghetto he emerged from. As this rose twists, turns and fights its way to a life above ground, Pac says, “we should all celebrate its tenacity” rather than condemn it for its bruised petals. Pac’s words explore not only the value of a rose, but the common sentiment of a new year.
Every 12 months we set resolutions. For many, they’re broken within months. "The Rose That Grew From Concrete" is about growing in spite of obstacles. It’s about facing our challenges, maneuvering around barriers and attaining those goals at the tips of our surfaces.
2. Ben E. King — "Spanish Harlem"
This song might take you back to childhood mornings when cleaning solution filled the air and old school jams rattled the walls of every room. Ben E. King’s "Spanish Harlem" was a favorite of mine.
In "Spanish Harlem," King is simply in love with a woman, and yes, he uses a red rose to describe her. His lyrics aren’t about the beauty of the rose, but of its growing character, personality and value. Enamored with this rose he sings, “I'm going to pick that rose and watch her as she grows in my garden.”
These words were sang with intentions. That red rose was picked with the intention of being replanted. It was picked with the intention of being nurtured. It was picked with intention of watching it grow to it’s highest potential. Not simply to be owned or given away.
How will you pick your roses in 2018?
3. Kanye West — "Roses"
With a passing grandmother and a bereaving family, Mr. West gave us a gift called, "Roses."
“I know it’s past visiting hours, but can I please give her these flowers?"
As Kanye opens the song with these lyrics, we all feel his sense of urgency. For some reason, these flowers are extremely valuable and need to be by his grandmother’s side. As he recounts the event of his grandmother lying in that hospital bed, we begin to understand why those flowers are so valuable.
Kanye describes the scene in great detail, but doesn’t mention the word “rose" until the chorus is introduced.
“I smile when roses come to see me.”
At this point, we find that the chorus is written from his grandmothers point of view, and the roses are not literal, but a metaphor for something.
As the second verse develops, Kanye lists the family present in support of the person they all treasure. As it closes, the value of the rose is hard to be misunderstood:
“Cause with my family we know where home is / So instead of sending flowers, we the roses.”
Rather than a simple bouquet, Kanye used roses to signify the value of his family.
As we craft our resolutions and set out to cultivate our gardens for 2018, let's grow fearlessly, plant with intention and never forget the value of relationships. As these things nurture the delicate rose, they will also help you thrive in 2018.