From a Distance

Infobox Standard
title = From a Distance

image_size = 200px
caption = Cover of the 1990 – 7" single by Bette Midler
writer = Julie Gold
composer =
lyricist =
published = 1987
language = English
original_artist = Nanci Griffith
recorded_by = Nanci Griffith
* 1987, "Lone Star State of Mind"
* 1988, "One Fair Summer Evening" (Live)
Bette Midler
* 1990, "Some People's Lives"
* 2006, "Cool Yule"
Julie Gold
* 1992, "Live at the Bottom Line 1991" ("Fast Folk" compilation)
* 1998 "Dream Loud"Others (selected):
* Cliff Richard
* Michael Ball
* Judy Collins
* Kathy Mattea

The song "From a Distance" was written in 1985 by American singer-songwriter Julie Gold. Gold was working as a secretary at the time for HBO and writing songs in her free time. [ official Julie Gold Biography] ] Gold's friend, Christine Lavin, introduced the song to Nanci Griffith who first recorded for her 1987 release, "Lone Star State of Mind." It quickly became a favorite of Griffith's fans around the world. The song became an international commercial success after it was recorded in 1990 by Bette Midler for the album "Some People's Lives", peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and went on to win a Grammy for Song of the Year in 1991.

Bette Midler re-recorded a Christmas version for her 2006 Christmas Album, "Cool Yule", with additional lyrics by Midler, Robbie Buchanan and Jay Landers. Additional recordings of the original have been performed by Gold, Griffith, Simon Nicol (of Fairport Convention) and many others. The song has also been sung by a number of children's school choirs.

Somewhat ironically, much of the song's popularity coincided with the first Persian Gulf War. It received a "Minute Man Award" from the United States Army for inspiring the troops and a "Seven Seals Award" from the Department of Defense.

The song also won a "3 Million Airs Award" from BMI.


Julie Gold has stated that she believes in an immanent and beneficent God, and also thinks that people have a right to interpret the song any way they want, as with all art. [ "Julie Gold and Her Songs"] , "Here on Earth - Radio Without Borders", Wisconsin Public Radio, February 19, 2005 ( [ audio] )] She has stated that the song is about the difference between how things appear to be and how they really are.]

The original notion may have been that a potentially harmonious world filled with hope and peace is perceivable when one stands back and looks at things "from a distance". God, from a similar perspective, "is watching" everything we do. It is not clear from these words that God is actively watching over us in a caring way or merely viewing what we do from a critical standpoint, but presumably God also hears the same harmony and songs "from a distance".

Another interpretation is that the perception of love and peace only exists "from a distance" and that the up close reality is not being addressed. It suggests that God is deistic and doesn't actually act on our problems, and is only an observer. From a distance "no one is in need," and "there are no hungry mouths to feed." "God is watching us from a distance." In other words, God is so far from human experience as to not be able to see, and thus respond, to hunger or need.


The Bette Midler album, "Some People's Lives" also peaked at number 6 in the Billboard 200.

Track listings

7": UK (Atlantic A7820)CASS: USA (Atlantic 7567-84888-4)3": Japan (Atlantic AMDY-5032)
# "From A Distance"
# "One More Round"

CDM: USA (Atlantic PRCD3528) Promo
# "From A Distance"

CDM: UK (Atlantic A7820CD)12": UK (Atlantic A7820T)
# "From A Distance"
# "One More Round"
# "Wind Beneath My Wings"
# "The Rose"

CDM: USA (Columbia 88697-00957-2)
# "From A Distance (Christmas Version)"

Note: from 2006

Put-downs and parodies

The Bette Midler recording of the song ranked at number 37 on VH1's list of the "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever." [ VH1 "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever" countdown] ] and ranked at number 14 on "Blender Magazine's" list of "The 50 Worst Songs Ever". "Run for Your Life! It's the 50 Worst Songs Ever!" by John Aizlewood, Clark Collis, Steve Kandell, Ben Mitchell, Tony Power, James Slaughter, Rob Tannenbaum, Mim Udovitch, Rene Vienet and Jonah Weiner, "Blender" ( [ view article] )] Criticisms focus on the song's lyrical content and the production of Midler's version, suggesting the single offers "liberal homilies, stiff rhymes and more sound F/X than a Mel Gibson movie." "Blender's" editors declare the "Worst Moment" to result from the use of the drum machine, stating, "If God exists, He probably hates drum machines."

In 1992, singer-songwriter Jay Mankita wrote a parody, "From a Dog's Stance", which appeared in Sing Out! magazine and was later included on his recording, "Dogs Are Watching Us". [ "From a Dog's Stance" lyrics] from official Jay Mankita web site] Mankita adopts the viewpoint of the canine rather than the divine:

The song has also been satirized by singer-songwriter Sue Trainor in her "In a Closeup". [ "In a Closeup", album] by [ Sue Trainor] ] According to a "Washington Post" review, "Trainor seems to genuinely admire 'From a Distance', Julie Gold's anthem of universal brotherhood, for she treats the hymn-like melody with great respect. She changes the lyrics, though, and instead of waxing poetic about the beauty of the world 'from a distance', she points out how flawed it all looks 'in a closeup'." "Trainor's Reverent Poke at Folk" by Geoffrey Himes, "The Washington Post", April 30, 1993]

External links

* [ Lyrics.]
*allmusicguide | id = 33:mpe99alfkrkt | label = "From a Distance" review
* [ "From a Distance"] at Songfacts
* [ Video of Julie Gold's Grammy Acceptance]
* [ "From a Distance" awakens space shuttle astronauts]

Notes and sources

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