"500 Miles" (also known as "500 Miles Away from Home" or "Railroaders' Lament") is a 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, and a 1961 copyright is held by Atzal Music, Inc. "500 Miles" is West's "most anthologized song." Some recordings have also credited Curly Williams, or John Phillips as co-writers. 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".
Bobby Bare version
|"500 Miles Away From Home"|
|Single by Bobby Bare|
|from the album 500 Miles Away From Home|
|B-side||"It All Depends on Linda"|
|Bobby Bare singles chronology|
The most commercially successful version of the song was Bobby Bare's in 1963. His version became a Top 10 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, as well as a Top 5 hit on both the Country and Adult Contemporary charts.
Other cover versions
- The song appears on the 1961 eponymous debut album by The Journeymen; this may have been its first release.
- The song was heard on the February, 1962 Kingston Trio live album College Concert (a 1962 US #3).
- It was further popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary, who included the song on their debut album in May 1962.
- American country music singer Bobby Bare recorded a version with new lyrics, which became a hit single in 1963.
- Dick and Dee Dee released a version of the song on their 1964 album, Turn Around.
- The song was covered by Sonny & Cher on their 1965 album Look at Us. This version was played over the credits of the 1966 BBC TV film Cathy Come Home.
- 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. Peter, Paul and Mary provided background vocals for them, as well. This version is on the album Zig Zag.
- It has also been recorded by Terry Callier (as ″900 Miles″ on The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier), Lonnie Donegan, the Brothers Four, Glen Campbell, Johnny Rivers, Reba McEntire, Jackie DeShannon, The Seekers, Elvis Presley, Peter and Gordon, Eric Bibb, Hootenanny Singers, Joan Baez, Takako Matsu, The Persuasions, Slater Rhea and many others. Recently, the song has been recorded by Justin Timberlake, David Michael Bennett, Carey Mulligan and Stark Sands for the soundtrack of the film Inside Llewyn Davis.
In other languages
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In Finnish the song has been recorded under at least five different song titles. In 1963 Erkki Pohjanheimo recorded the song under title "Juna jättää laiturin" (English: "The Train Leaves the Platform"). Lyrics were written by Reino Helismaa. Pohjanheimo recorded the song from its French title "J'entends siffler le train", and it was on the B side of a 7" single called "Kutsukaa Tri Casey" (almost direct traslation from "Callin' Dr. Casey", a hit by John D. Loudermilk). The following year a Finnish vocal quartet Neljä Penniä (English: Four Pennies) recorded a 7" single that consisted of two songs: "Washington Square" on the A side, and on the flip side there was a Finnish version of "500 Miles" under the title "Pitkät illat" (English: "The Long Evenings"), lyrics by Sauvo Puhtila. Also in 1964 another version of the song was recorded by folk-spirited trio Anki, Bosse & Robert and titled "Viimeinen vihellys" (English: "The Last Whistle"), lyrics by Juha Vainio. "Viimeinen vihellys" was also a 7" single B side, on the A side there was Will Holt's song "Lemon Tree" (Finnish: "Sitruunapuu"). "Viimeinen vihellys" was released also on their self-titled record in 1965. In 1979 the song was recorded yet again, by Jukka Raitanen. This time it was called "Liian kaukana" (English: "Too Far Away"). Lyrics were written by Raul Reiman. This song was released on Raitanen's album Yölinjalla. "Yölinjalla(in)" song is a Finnish version of the song "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash.
"500 Miles" has also been released with religious content under name "Lapsuuden usko" (English: "Childhood Faith"), lyrics by Matti Nyberg. This song has been recorded at least three times: 1973, 2005 and 2011. It was released by a parish singer group Dominicones in 1973,. In 2005 it was recorded by actor and singer Mikko Leppilampi. The song was released on album "Tilkkutäkki" (English: "Quilt", by various artists), and targeted to people who want to nostalgize the time of their confirmation on Lutheran church. In 2011 it was recorded by Petrus (real name Petri Kokko, born 1970) in his album Enkelten laulut (English: "The Songs of Angels").
In 1963 a 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 Japanese duo Wink included it as the B-side of their 1989 single 淋しい熱帯魚 (Samishii Nettaigyo), under the title 背中 まで 500 マイル (Senaka Made 500 Mairu; 500 Miles Back). In 2018, Japanese singer Kiyoe Yoshioka sang a Japanese version of the song, "500 Mairu" (500マイル) on her debut album Uta Iro.
The Slovene singer Lado Leskovar wrote a 1965 hit based on the song titled "Poslednji vlak" (English: "The Last Train").
There are two versions in Vietnamese. One is "Tiễn em lần cuối" ("Send You Off for the Last Time") sung by Trung Hanh, another one is "Người tình ngàn dặm" ("Thousands-mile-away Lover") sung by Ngọc Lan.
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