"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 traveler 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, although Phillips admitted he had only rearranged it and "didn't deserve the credit". David Neale writes that "500 Miles" may be related to the older folk song "900 Miles" (Roud 4959), which may itself have origins in the southern American fiddle tunes "Reuben's Train" and "Train 45". Johnny Cash is known to have included "500 Miles" on his list of 100 essential country songs in the early 1970s.
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."
- Bluegrass versions were recorded by The Country Gentlemen on their album 25 Years and The Seldom Scene on their album Act I.
- 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.
- Czech singer Waldemar Matuška sang a cover Tisíc mil
- Rosanne Cash covered the song on her 2009 album "The List".
In other languages
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In 2017 a Chinese adaptation of the song called "别送我" (English: "Don’t send me off") was released on the soundtrack of "Duckweed" and sung by Chen Hongyu, Su Zixu, Liu Hao Lin, and Han Luo.
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 translation 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.
Moreover, "500 Miles" has also been released with religious content under name "Lapsuuden usko" (English: "Childhood Faith"), with lyrics by Matti Nyberg. This version 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.
Peter, Paul & Mary's version of the song was used in the 2011 IMAX film Rocky Mountain Express, which chronicles the early history of the Canadian Pacific Railway while following restored steam locomotive Canadian Pacific 2816 along the route.
- Blood, Peter and Annie Patterson (eds), Rise Up Singing, Sing Out Corporation, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania , United States, 1992, p. 232
- Anderson, Yohann (ed), Songs, Songs and Creations, Inc., San Anselmo, California, United States, 1983, p. 29
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- "Five Hundred Miles / Nine Hundred Miles". Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
Nine Hundred Miles is a lament of a traveller far from home that is from the beginning of the last century or earlier. Hedy West rewrote this song as Five Hundred Miles with a different tune but several overlapping verses.
- 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 19 February 2012.
- Gross, Terry (5 October 2009). "Rosanne Cash Runs Down Her Father's 'List'". npr.org. NPR. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
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John Duffey's whispery tenor graces ... 500 Miles
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bluegrass fans would not have objected to "Darling Corey" or "500 Miles"
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- http://www.studio-ld.net, Helena Vondráčková | Tisíc mil, retrieved 27 October 2019
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 December 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaaye' copied from 'Five Hundred Miles".
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- "Ikimonogakari Vocalist Kiyoe Yoshioka Announces Debut Solo Album "Uta Iro"". JPop Asia. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
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