Lynn Anderson dies at 67

Lynn Anderson, left, singer of the famous song "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden," offers Little Jimmy Dickens a rose at the dedication of the Nashville Music Garden in Hall of Fame Park on Sept. 29, 2009.  Dipti Vaidya / The Tennessean

Juli Thanki, jthanki@tennessean.com

Country singer Lynn Anderson, best known for her classic recording “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” died Thursday night of a heart attack at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

She had been hospitalized for pneumonia following a trip to Italy. She was 67 years old.

Lynn Rene Anderson was born Sept. 26, 1947 in Grand Forks, N.D., and raised in California. She came from a musical family: Her parents Casey and Liz Anderson were both songwriters; the latter penned the Merle Haggard hits “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers” and “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive.”

Ms. Anderson’s debut single, a duet with Jerry Lane called “For Better or for Worse,” was released in 1966, when she was just 19 years old. It failed to chart. However, later that year her single “Ride, Ride, Ride,” cracked the country charts, and its successor, “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away)” was a Top 5 hit.

Country star Lynn Anderson waves to the crowd during the CMA Music Festival Kick-Off Parade on June 5, 2013, in downtown Nashville. 

For two years during the late 1960s, Ms. Anderson was a regular on the popular “Lawrence Welk Show,” an outlet which exposed her to a nationwide audience. "It was appointment viewing," said WSM DJ and Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs. "Lynn Anderson really helped expand the boundaries of country music because there wasn't a lot of (it) on network television at that time."

Lynn Anderson performs "I've Been Everywhere" on The Lawrence Welk Show in 1968.

Ms. Anderson wed producer/songwriter Glenn Sutton in 1968. He produced several of her hit songs — and wrote some too, including “You’re My Man” and “Keep Me in Mind” — but the couple would divorce in 1977.

In 1970, Ms. Anderson moved from California to Nashville, and signed with Columbia Records. In October of that year, she released what would become her signature song, and one of country music’s classics. The lilting “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” penned by Joe South, became a worldwide hit with its immediately recognizable intro and catchy lyrics. In the U.S., it spent five weeks atop the country music charts and crossed over to the pop charts as well.

The recording also netted Ms. Anderson a Best Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy Award, and in 1971, the Country Music Association named her Female Vocalist of the Year. Over the last four decades, “Rose Garden” has been covered numerous times by a wide variety of artists including k.d. lang, Martina McBride, Suicide Machines and Southern Culture on the Skids.

Presenters Lynn Anderson and Mel Tillis name Ronnie Milsap as winner of Album of the Year for "A Legend in My Time" at the nationally televised CMA Awards show Oct. 13, 1975, at the Grand Ole Opry House. 

Her popularity began to fade during the second half of the 1970s, and in 1980, she released her final recording for Columbia. After a short hiatus from recording, Ms. Anderson returned to music and signed with Permian Records. It was with this label that she released her final Top 10 single, “You’re Welcome to Tonight” (a duet with Gary Morris) in 1983. Since then, she’s recorded a handful of albums, including the Grammy-nominated “Bluegrass Sessions,” in 2004.

Lynn Anderson, left, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Dottie West and Tammy Wynette sing a medley around a "country girl" theme during the sixth annual CMA Awards show Oct. 16, 1972.  Frank Empson / The Tennessean

In recent years Ms. Anderson had multiple arrests for driving under the influence. Following her September 2014 arrest in Nashville, Ms. Anderson apologized to her fans in a statement and affirmed that she was committed to her recovery. This summer, she seemed poised for a comeback: In June, she released the inspirational gospel album "Bridges," which garnered positive reviews, and appeared at the CMA Music Festival.

Lynn Anderson, left, and her mother, Liz Anderson, stand before the microphone at RCA Victor's Opry breakfast Oct. 22, 1967. Singer and writer Liz Anderson told the audience she wasn't going to sing, but just wanted to introduce her daughter, who appears on "The Lawrence Welk Show." Jimmy Ellis / The Tennessean

Ms. Anderson was also a horse breeder and an award-winning, lifelong equestrian who became involved in therapeutic horse riding programs for disabled and troubled children.

She is survived by her father, three children — Lisa Sutton, Melissa Hempel and Gray Stream — four grandchildren and her partner Mentor Williams. Funeral services will be held at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home and Memorial Park. Details will be announced shortly