Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Lee Greenwood, “I Don’t Mind the Thorns (If You’re the Rose)”

“I Don’t Mind the Thorns (If You’re the Rose)”

Lee Greenwood

Written by Jan Buckingham and Linda Young

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

November 1, 1985


#1 (1 week)

December 7, 1985

Lee Greenwood’s Streamline album produced three No. 1 hits, starting with the lead single, which is easily his best so far.

It all starts with smarter production choices.  Lee Greenwood favors intensity in his vocals, and the overproduction of some of his earlier hits required him to strain to be heard over the backing track.  The arrangement for “I Don’t Mind the Thorns” is tasteful and understated, so he’s able to actually interpret the lyric, which he does quite effectively.

It’s also a great composition written by two women.  I bring up their gender because I think the reason this works so well is because a man recorded it.  These lyrics would’ve come off as subservient if most of the female artists from this era had taken a crack at it.  From a man of this time period, they come off as vulnerable instead:

Stay, we can work the whole thing outThat’s what love’s aboutAnd I understandYou didn’t mean the things you saidThey’re so easy to forgetWhen you take my hand
I don’t mind the cold when I have a fire to warm meI don’t mind the rain ’cause it makes the flowers growI can take the bad times when you wrap your love around meI don’t mind the thorns when you’re the rose
I can’t stress enough how effective Greenwood is here. It would’ve been so easy for him to go for the power notes on the bridge:
If it was anybody else, I would be goneBut you’re so beautiful to me, oh that I keep on holding on
I was actually bracing for him to go full throttle there, but he stays true to the lyric, delivering it with the resigned restraint of a man who understands that the thorns and the rose are a package deal.
For me, this record is a reminder of how important it is to give every record from every artist a fair listen, regardless of what’s come before.  I grew up with Lee Greenwood blasting in the car.  I never warmed to the Greatest Hits collection that was in rotation on our family road trips.
But I absolutely love this, and it has me optimistic for the rest of his chart-topping hits of this decade, all of which will be new to my ears.
Grade: A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

Previous: Gary Morris, “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” |

Next: The Bellamy Brothers, “I’d Lie to You For Your Love”

Open in Spotify

1 Comment

  1. Greenwood is at his best vocally when he avoids his vibrato which he only indulges – and minimally so – at the song’s end.

    He leaned on it in his earlier hits too heavily for emotional impact. It got in the way of the songs.

    He is no Gary Morris so he is learning less is more as a singer when presented with strong song material and production.

    He doesn’t need to hit the big note, just manage the performance.

    I had totally forgotten about this song.

    It is another of his moments when he gets nearly everything charmingly right.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.