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James R. Stout

Watch The Rose

            I wrote my first song when I was 14-years-old. It was not my best work, but it was a start. I wrote that song, “Lock and Key” in the summer of 1970. In the nearly 50 years since then I have written approximately 600 songs. I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that a great many of the songs written in the first 3 years were not particularly good. In fact, some of them were quite bad. However, I look back on a lot of those songs and I realize that it was a time of learning how to write and a time of discovering my “voice”. In some cases, I pilfered parts of those songs and incorporated them into much better and worthy songs. I’ve heard interviews with some of the best songwriters ever and they have given various explanations as to how they came to write a song. For me, there have basically been three ways that I have written a song. First, the melody and the musical part of a song came. Sometimes I would write the words as the song came, but for the most part the music came first, and the lyrics followed. The second way that a song has come to me is from writing a poem or lyric and then finding a melody that fit the lyrics. The second method has been far less prevalent in my writing. However, some of my best songs came about this way. Finally, I have written a few songs that were “by demand”. Well, more like “by my own demand”. They were written for or about someone or some subject that was important to me at the time. For instance, I have written three different wedding songs. One for each of my children and one for my oldest sister.

            Am I boring you yet? I hope not because I’m about to get to the point of this blog entry. One the best songs that I have written started life as a poem. I’d like to share the poem with you in just a moment. I really do need to get this one recorded properly. I have a demo recorded of it that goes back to 1980. The demo is just that. It’s not a finished product by any stretch. The poem speaks for itself.

Watch The Rose

One man lives, another man dies.

One wife weeps, another wife sighs.

One more grave to fill.

And those who remain, lie still.


One child hugs her Daddy home.

Another child cries, all alone.

One man sits and wonders why.

It was his friend that had to die.


No war is won, we all lose.

And those who die, do not choose.

Yet some who live, watch the rose.

For though it’s picked, it still grows.


            I wrote the poem on April 28, 1980. After reading the poem again 40 years later, it is still relevant. Although I wrote the poem about the effects on people after the loss of a loved one in a war, the same feelings can be felt by anyone after losing a loved one. This could be a police officer, a fireman, or just a best friend who might have been a plumber, electrician, lawyer, doctor, mechanic, grocery clerk or insurance salesman that died. He was loved and his loss is felt deeply by those who loved him. In the poem I compare the absolutely normal feelings of the different people affected by the loss. I immersed myself in those feelings at the time. A soldier died and his friend sits on a bunk in a tent wondering why it was his friend that died instead of himself. There was a wife who is left weeping at the news of her husband’s death while the wife of his friend sighs in relief that it wasn’t her husband that died. At a later date, there’s a child that runs to her Daddy and hugs him as he comes home from the war while the child of the deceased is left crying, perhaps sitting on the floor of her room with her knees drawn up to her chest and she is feeling a loss too profound to understand. Finally, it occurred to me that no war is won. The truth is we all lose. There’s a huge cemetery in Normandy that is the final resting place of American soldiers who died in that battle. While we owe them a debt that cannot be repaid and they were the very definition of heroes, none of them wanted to die. None of them chose to be in their grave. They did make a choice to answer the call of service and it did lead them to an early grave, but I would venture to say that most of those young men went into battle hoping that they would live through it. As I wrote the poem, I did not wish for it to be a totally negative thing. Even in death we can find hope. For those who have accepted Jesus as their savior, death on Earth is just the beginning.

            I once heard the wife of a man who died say something at his funeral that has stayed with me through the years. Someone made the statement that they just didn’t understand why God allowed such a good man to die so young. This grieving wife simply looked at the other person and said, “Sometimes God picks the sweetest rose for Himself.” She didn’t mean it as a negative or with any kind of bitterness. She meant it with love. She realized that God is in control and His love would sustain her. She lived another 37 years and then joined her husband in Heaven. Sorry if I got a little serious with this one, but it was on my heart. Thanks for reading and stay in touch dear friends.

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