500 Miles

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For the Proclaimers song, see I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles).

"500 Miles" (also known as "500 Miles Away from Home" or "Railroaders' Lament") is a folk song made popular in the United States and Europe during the 1960s folk revival. The simple repetitive lyrics offer a lament by a traveller who is far from home, out of money and too ashamed to return.


The song is generally credited as being written by Hedy West,[1][2] and a 1961 copyright is held by Atzal Music, Inc.[1] "500 Miles" is West's "most anthologized song."[3] Some recordings have also credited Curly Williams, and/or John Phillips as co-writers.[4] David Neale writes that "500 Miles" may be related to the older folk song, "900 Miles", which may itself have origins in the southern American fiddle tunes "Reuben's Train" and "Train 45".[4][5]

Cover versions[edit]

  • The song appears on the 1961 self-titled debut album by The Journeymen;[6] this may have been its first release.
  • Rewritten with new lyrics (by Bobby Bare), it charted as a hit single by American country music singer Bobby Bare in 1963 (#10 US, #7 NOR, #9 SWE, #16 DEN).[3] Bare's version features a spoken recitation following the repeat of the refrain, before he sings one original line of his second verse. Following this, he makes a transition from the key of G to the key of D for the third verse, featuring a counterpoint portion by the backup singers, before making a transition back to the key of G for the last refrain, before the song's fade. The lyrics feature heavily in the Bob Dylan song "I Was Young When I Left Home".
  • The Hooters recorded a version of this song with additional lyrics, dedicated to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. It goes: "A hundred tanks along the square, one man stands and stops them there. Some day soon, the tide will turn, and I'll be free".

In other languages[edit]

  • In 1963 the German version, "Und dein Zug fährt durch die Nacht" (English: "And Your Train Goes Through the Night") was a success for Peter Beil.
  • Also in German, Santiano in 2012 released a marine-themed version, "500 Meilen" on their album Bis ans Ende der Welt.
  • The Swedish release by The Hootenanny Singers is titled "Så länge du älskar är du ung" (English: "As Long As You Love, You’re Young").
  • An Assamese version, "Ketiyaba Bejarote" by singer Jayanta Hazarika exists, which is about a son missing his mother who is far away from him.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Blood, Peter and Annie Patterson (eds), Rise Up Singing, Sing Out Corporation, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States, 1992, p.232
  2. ^ Anderson, Yohann (ed), Songs, Songs and Creations, Inc., San Anselmo, California, United States, 1983, p.29
  3. ^ a b Hunt, Ken (3 August 2005). "Obituary: Hedy West". The Independent. Retrieved 17 September 2009. 
  4. ^ a b David Neale, "Elvis Presley: Original Versions of Songs He Sang"
  5. ^ Cohen, Norm (2000). Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong, 2nd Ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 503–517. ISBN 0-252-06881-5. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  6. ^ answers.com
  7. ^ Allmusic review, Peter, Paul and Mary
  8. ^ "Top Selling Folk Artists". Billboard Magazine (Nielsen Business Media, Inc.): 18. 19 January 1963. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  9. ^ "Hedy West: Songs Composed by", Allmusic
  10. ^ http://www.nonesuch.com/albums/inside-llewyn-davis-lp
  11. ^ "Les Chansons Classées par Nb de Semaines N° 1". Retrieved 2011-12-31. 

External links[edit]