In 1981, a very sentimental, straightforward song shot to the top of the charts on the power of Bette Midler’s soulful delivery.
“The Rose” struck a chord with a sparse but somber piano track and poetic lyrics like “Some say love, it is a river” and “Some say love, it is a razor.”
It’s very likely you know the song because it sold over half a million copies and dominated pop charts, as well as becoming a top Adult Contemporary track. What’s less likely is that you know the woman who wrote the song, Amanda McBroom.
But if you’re a MAS*H fan, you likely remember her because she once memorably played piano accordion and piano on the show!
Also in 1981, the 10th season of MAS*H premiered with an episode called “That’s Show Biz.” It showed a traveling U.S.O. show that stops off at the camp, only to have their star suddenly need emergency surgery.
McBroom does not play the star Brandy, but the red-headed musician Ellie Carlyle, who performs various songs in the episode, including a lively polka and one of Beethoven’s sonatas.
“I was the one with the wiggle-waggles and the really ugly blue dress,” McBroom once said, describing her appearance on MAS*H in an interview with Talkin’ Broadway.
This was not McBroom’s first time on TV. She’d been acting in bit parts since 1973, appearing on Gunsmoke, Hawaii Five-O (she was HPD officer Sandi Wells in a handful of episodes), Charlie’s Angels, Taxi, and more. She also provided voices for the cartoon show The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang.
She was a busy lady as an actor, but she found time for singing and songwriting, too.
Appearing on Broadway and penning more songs for movies, McBroom proved she’s a versatile talent, and she’s still making songs today.
Back in 1981, though, it turned out she didn’t need very long to come up with one of Bette Midler’s biggest hits.
The story goes that McBroom was trying to secure a record deal and her manager thought if she wrote a song in the style of Bob Seger that she’d be a shoe-in. Begrudgingly, she wrote “The Rose” in 45 minutes.
McBroom felt that “The Rose” was simple and could use some embellishment, but Midler proved the song needed nothing but her special warble. Midler’s powerful rendition beat out Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love” to win the Grammy for Pop Female Vocal Performance in 1981.