Country singer-songwriter Joe South wrote this for his 1969 debut album, Introspect. It was covered by male artists like Freddy Weller, Billy Joe Royal, and Dobie Gray before Lynn Anderson made it an international crossover hit in 1971. Aside from peaking at #3 on the US Hot 100, it also topped the Country chart for five weeks.
"I never promised you a rose garden" is another way of saying "I never said it would be easy." The singer encourages her lover to enjoy the good times in their relationship because the bad times are inevitable ("Along with the sunshine there's gotta be a little rain sometime").
Because of lyrics like "I could promise you things like big diamond rings," Anderson's producer (and husband) Glenn Sutton considered this a man's song and tried to dissuade her from covering it. Only when they had some extra studio time left did he consider it for an album cut, but with some changes. They reworked the track with an uptempo arrangement that included a string section and mandolin. When Columbia Records' exec Clive Davis heard it, he insisted it be released as a single.
"It was popular because it touched on emotions,'' Anderson told the Associated Press of the song in 1987. "It was perfectly timed. It was out just as we came out of the Vietnam years and a lot of people were trying to recover. This song stated that you can make something out of nothing. You take it and go ahead."
This earned Anderson a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1971.
Anderson re-recorded a bluegrass version for her 2004 album The Bluegrass Sessions.
The Canadian pop group Kon Kan sampled the chorus for their 1988 dance club hit "I Beg Your Pardon."
Martina McBride covered this for her 2005 album of country classics, Timeless. Her version landed at #98 on the pop chart and #18 on the country chart.
After Anderson's 2015 death from a heart attack at age 67, fellow country crooner Dolly Parton said: "Lynn is blooming in God's Rose Garden now. We will miss her and remember her fondly."
The title album topped the country albums chart, where it would remain for 14 weeks, and peaked at #19 on the Billboard 200. The album would eventually be certified platinum, making Anderson one of the first female country music artists to do so, along with Tammy Wynette. (The RIAA didn't begin platinum certifications, which signified a million copies sold, until 1976, so it's difficult to determine whether Anderson or Wynette was the first.)