I’ve long been infatuated with this poem, long before I even knew it was a poem and not just a song. One of my favourite singers, a Scots-American named John Barrowman, sang a version of it on one of his early albums and I loved it immediately.
This song was, along with others such as “Auld Lang Syne,” part of Burns’ effort to preserve Scottish tradition and heritage in music. The aim of much of Burns’ work was the preservation of Scotland and its people. “Red, Red Rose” has been set to music countless times by numerous composers ranging from Robert Schumann to the Simon Sisters and everything inbetween. Even the great legend Bob Dylan credits the poem as being his greatest influence and inspiration.
The sheer variety in the musical interpretations of the poem fascinate me. The version Barrowman sings, composed by Paul Alan Johnson, will forever be the version I hear when I think of the poem. Studying other adaptations has been a real joy.