From a Distance

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"From a Distance" is a song written in 1987 by American singer-songwriter Julie Gold. Gold was working as a secretary at the time for Home Box Office and writing songs in her free time.[1] Gold's friend, Christine Lavin, introduced the song to Nanci Griffith who first recorded it for her 1987 album, Lone Star State of Mind. It quickly became a favorite of Griffith's fans around the world.[citation needed]

The song also became subject of many interpretations with the most famous being the Bette Midler version.[citation needed]


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.[2] She has stated that the song is about the difference between how things appear to be and how they really are.[2]


Original Nanci Griffith version[edit]

"From a Distance"
Promotional single by Nanci Griffith
from the album Lone Star State of Mind
Released 1988[3]
Format Cassette
Genre Country
Length 4:10
Label MCA
Songwriter(s) Julie Gold
Producer(s) Tony Brown, Nancy Griffith

Nanci Griffith recorded it first in her 1987 album Lone Star State of Mind. Nanci Griffith told the story that in 1986, a songwriter Julie Gold had sent her the song asking Griffith what was wrong with it, as Gold had sent it to so many artists and record companies but none wanted to record it. Griffith had answered that she loved it so much the moment she heard it and that she really wanted to hear it performed personally by Gold herself. Thus was established a good relationship between the two with Griffith being the first to record "From a Distance" in her Lone Star State of Mind album. Although the Griffith version became very popular, the song failed to chart until Bette Midler covered it.

Griffith performed it live many times from that day on and a version of her live performance done on August 19 and 20, 1988 at the Anderson Fair, a Houston, Texas club and long known for featuring folk artists in an intimate setting, appeared in her live album One Fair Summer Evening.

More versions[edit]

Judy Collins sang it live in 1989, being first recorded in her live album Sanity and Grace, and in 1990 in her studio album Fires of Eden. The Byrds recorded the song as one of 4 newly recorded studio tracks for their box set The Byrds released in 1990.

Bette Midler version[edit]

"From a Distance"
Midler From a D.jpg
Single by Bette Midler
from the album Some People's Lives
Released October 1, 1990
Format 7-inch single
Genre CCM, pop
Length 4:37
Label Atlantic
Songwriter(s) Julie Gold
Producer(s) Arif Mardin

The song became an international commercial success after it was recorded in 1990 by Bette Midler for the album Some People's Lives. "From a Distance" went to number one on the Adult Contemporary chart and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.[4] The song went on to win a Grammy for Song of the Year in 1991. The song also won a "3 Million Airs Award" from Broadcast Music Incorporated.

Midler re-recorded a Christmas version for her 2006 Christmas album, Cool Yule, with additional lyrics by Los Angeles native Jay Landers. Additional recordings of the original have been performed by Gold, Griffith, Simon Nicol (of Fairport Convention) and many others.

Much of the song's popularity coincided with the first Persian Gulf War. The song's parent album, Some People's Lives, peaked at number 6 in the Billboard 200.

Date Recording artist Country Chart Peak
November 1990 Bette Midler US Billboard Adult Contemporary 1
December 1990 Bette Midler US The Billboard Hot 100 2
January 1991 Bette Midler Australia ARIA Charts[5] 8
June 1991 Bette Midler UK UK Singles Chart 6
Year-end chart (1991) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[6] 15
All-time chart Position
Australia (ARIA)[7] 678
Track listings

7": UK (Atlantic A7820) CASS: USA (Atlantic 7567-84888-4) 3": Japan (Atlantic AMDY-5032)

  1. "From a Distance"
  2. "One More Round"

CDM: USA (Atlantic PRCD3528) Promo

  1. "From a Distance"

CDM: UK (Atlantic A7820CD) 12": UK (Atlantic A7820T)

  1. "From a Distance"
  2. "One More Round"
  3. "Wind Beneath My Wings"
  4. "The Rose"

CDM: USA (Columbia 88697-00957-2)

  1. "From a Distance (Christmas Version)"

Note: Christmas version from 2006


The Midler recording of the song ranked at number 37 on VH1's list of the "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever."[8] and ranked at number 14 on the now defunct Blender Magazine's list of "The 50 Worst Songs Ever".[9] Criticisms focus on the song's lyrical content and the production of Midler's version. .

Cliff Richard version[edit]

"From a Distance"
Single by Cliff Richard
from the album From a Distance: The Event
B-side "Lindsay Jane II"
Released October 1, 1990
Recorded June 16–17, 1989
Label EMI
Songwriter(s) Julie Gold
Producer(s) Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard singles chronology
"From a Distance"
"Saviour's Day"

The song was simultaneously released by Cliff Richard in October 1990 from a similarly titled album From a Distance: The Event reaching number 11 in the UK Singles Charts[10] and number 16 in Ireland.

In 1999, on his "40th Anniversary Tour" as a recording artist, Richard opened his concert in Royal Albert Hall with the song.

Date Recording artist Country Chart Peak
Oct 1990 Cliff Richard UK UK Singles Chart 11
Oct 1990 Cliff Richard Ireland Irish Singles Chart 16
Track listings

7": UK (EMI EM 155), 7" Picture Disc: UK (EMI EMPD 155)

  1. "From a Distance"
  2. "Lindsay Jane II"

CDS: UK (EMI CDEM 155), 12": UK (EMI 12EM 155)

  1. "From a Distance"
  2. "Lindsay Jane II"
  3. "Wired for Sound (live)"

Magdalene Survivors Together charity version[edit]

"From a Distance"
Single by Various artists
Released 2011
Length 4:05
Songwriter(s) Julie Gold
Producer(s) John Reynolds, Tim Oliver

"From a Distance" became a 2011 charity single[11] in support of Magdalene Survivors Together, a charity set in July 2009 by Gerard Boland focusing on the human rights aspect of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. The 2011 single had vocal participation from a great number of artists: Sinéad O'Connor, Tommy Fleming, Brian Kennedy, Daniel O'Donnell, Ann Scott, Moya Brennan, Charlie Landsborough, Patrick Sheehy, Lumiere and the Scottish Glasgow Gospel Choir. The track was produced by John Reynolds and Tim Oliver and mastered at Soundmastwers, London. Tesco Ireland, Beaumex Ireland and Believe Digital distributed the single online and it was made available in Tesco stores through Ireland. The proceeds would go to build an Irish national monument for the Magdalene women.

Other cover versions[edit]

  • 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.[14] Mankita adopts the viewpoint of the canine rather than the divine: "From a dog's stance, we all have enough... / so why not give dogs more? / From a dog's stance, dogs can't comprehend... / what all these cats are for."[14]
  • The song has also been satirized by singer-songwriter Sue Trainor in her In a Closeup.[15] 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'."[16]


See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes and sources[edit]

  1. ^ official Julie Gold Biography
  2. ^ a b "Julie Gold and Her Songs", Here on Earth - Radio Without Borders, Wisconsin Public Radio, February 19, 2005 (audio)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 170. 
  5. ^ ARIA chart archives from
  6. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1991". Archived from the original on 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  7. ^ "ARIA Charts – Best of all time chart – Top 1000 Singles". Archived from the original on July 8, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ VH1 "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever" countdown
  9. ^ "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)
  10. ^ ChartStats: From a Distance by Cliff Richard
  11. ^ ( Magdalene Survivors Together website: Charity single)
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b "From a Dog's Stance" lyrics from official Jay Mankita web site
  15. ^ In a Closeup, album at the Wayback Machine (archived February 4, 2002) by Sue Trainor
  16. ^ "Trainor's Reverent Poke at Folk" by Geoffrey Himes, The Washington Post, April 30, 1993
  17. ^ Himes, Geoffrey (April 30, 1993). "Trainor's Reverent Poke At Folk". The Washington Post. 
Preceded by
"Love Takes Time" by Mariah Carey
Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one single
November 3, 1990
Succeeded by
"You Gotta Love Someone" by Elton John