The Flowertown Festival begins Friday in Summerville, but there’s no reason not to get in the flower spirit now. Here are 10 songs – some classic, some obscure – that will help you prepare for – or take your mind off – the 200,000-plus people expected to visit our area in the next few days.
A good share of these favorites feature roses, but in this musical bouquet you’ll also find buttercups, orange blossoms and tulips.
1. “Kiss From a Rose,” Seal: We’ll lead off the list with this tune timely for its connection to 1995’s “Batman Forever.” Now 20 years later, the film “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” opened in theaters Friday. Seal’s “Kiss” made it to No. 1 on U.S. charts in August 1995.
2. “Daisy Bell,” Harry Dacre. Also known as “A Bicycle Built for Two,” this is a tune you may have heard your grandparents whistling as they worked in the garden or hung laundry on the line. It was written in 1892 and became popular because of its scandalous lyrics that contain several double entendres and sexual innuendos, such as the name Daisy, which was selected to poke fun at a royal affair by King Edward II.
3. “Flowers in Your Hair,” The Lumineers. Here’s one for the kids. Still relatively new to the music scene, this Americana folk rock band has seen huge success and is currently on tour -- although most of its 2016 venues are sold out. “Flowers in Your Hair” is the first track on the band’s first album, but it was “Ho, Hey” that’s seen the most traction.
4. “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” Lynn Anderson: This gem from 1971 peaked at No. 3 on the US Hot 100, and remains a standard on many country stations. Anderson’s cover of this Joe South written tune from 1969 helped Anderson collect a Grammy Award in 1971 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Country music superstar Martina McBride performed the song at the Grand Ole Opry in September 2015 in tribute the Anderson, who died a few months earlier in July 2015. The two performed the song together on the same stage in 2005.
5. “Build Me Up Buttercup,” The Foundations: Originally released in 1968, this tribute to the buttercup flower was written by Mike D’Abo and Tony Macaulay, both of whom went on to become musical legends with connections to many hits and groups such as The Hollies and Andy Williams. Regarding the flower known as the buttercup, the plant Ranunculus translates from Latin as “little frog,” because of its tendency to be found near bodies of water.
6. “Tip Toe Through the Tulips,” Tiny Tim: This song should serve as a reminder that your parents didn’t understand your taste in music just as much as you don’t understand your children’s. Tiny Tim’s most famous song also was his last as he collapsed of an apparent heart attack on stage in 1996 at the age of 64. Tulips, often known as the flower of love – take that, rose – originated in Persia and Turkey, according to the website telaflora.com. “Tulips were brought to Europe in the 16th century, where they got their common name from the Turkish word for gauze (with which turbans were wrapped) - reflecting the turban-like appearance of a tulip in full bloom.”
7. “Run For The Roses,” Dan Fogelberg. This is a song about a horse. Specifically, it’s about a horse growing up to run in the Kentucky Derby, also known as the “Run for the Roses” because of the wreath of flowers draped over the winning horse. The Kentucky Derby, by the way, will take place almost a month from now on May 6 in Louisville, Kentucky. Dan Fogelberg’s sappy horse song debuted at the 1980 Kentucky Derby in apparent move to get free tickets. “I always wanted to come to the derby,” Foglerberg said, in quote attributed to him by the website, songfacts.com.
8. “Sugar Magnolia,” Grateful Dead. The Magnolia trees around Summerville originate from the ancient genus that some believe appeared even before bees, instead relying on pollination by beetles that could not damage the resilient petals on the blossom. One variety of the tree has been found in fossil remains more than 20 million years old, even older than members of the Grateful Dead, which first sang about magnolia’s in June 1970. The song, which carries the name magnolia in the title, actually make reference to several other plants and flowers. Listen for the following phrases: “under the willow,” “rolling in the rushes,” “through rays of violet,” “ringing that bluebell,” “A breeze in the pines,” and “walking in the tall trees.”
9. “The Orange Blossom Special,” Johnny Cash. A list of music wouldn’t be legit without a Johnny Cash tune. Sometimes just known as “The Special,” this classic fiddle tune made it to No. 3 on the Billboard Country Album chart with Johnny Cash’s lyrics and a seemingly-out-of-place saxophone solo. If you don’t get enough with that song, there’s another version of just the instrumental from the “best there’s ever been,” Charlie Daniels.
10. “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand (live at the Grammy Awards). “Flowers” began as a solo project by Diamond in 1977, but it reached No. 1 of Billboard’s Top 100 twice in 1978 after he sang it with Streisand. The other song that reached No. 1 twice that year? “Le Freak” by the band Chic. That same year saw a No. 1 hit by Barry Gibb and sung by Frankie Valli, thanks in large part to the movie “Greese,” which featured another power duo – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, who never sang about flowers as far as I can tell.
11. “Every Rose Has its Thorn,” Poison. Written after a failed love affair, lead singer Bret Michaels is said to have filled a yellow legal pad full of verses in a carthetic attempt to deal with his emotions. The song was No. 1 for three weeks in a row in late 1988. More than 20 years later in 2010, Miley Cyrus covered the song, but nobody cares about that.
A couple more “rose” songs before we get to my top pick: “Delta Dawn,” Helen Reddy. You loved her in “Pete’s Dragon,” the delightful Disney tale about human trafficking, and her voice became the battle cry of women’s rights in the mid-1970s with “I am woman, hear me roar.” Also, “The Rose,” Bette Midler. This powerful ballad found its way into the 1979 movie “The Rose” which is based on the life of Janis Joplin, who also recorded a song titled “Flower in the Sun,” which, aside from its historical significance, is very forgettable.
12. “Edelweiss,” This iconic lullaby is often mistakenly thought to be the national anthem of Austria or an Austrian folk song. In reality, it was written by composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for their 1959 musical “The Sound of Music.” In the 1965 movie by the same name, actor Christopher Plummer sang the song twice. Found in the high Alps, the flower is protected by law in Austria, France, Germany, India, Slovenia and Switzerland. The plant can be grown in your garden as an annual if you have a place that receives lots of sun.
OK, so my top 10 list had 12 songs about flowers. There are many more tunes about flora that I’m sure you can think of – “Yellow Rose of Texas” for instance, or “Scarborough Fair (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)” or Blake Shelton’s “Honey Bee (Honeysuckle).”
We’ll save some of those for next year’s list.
David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.com.