It was in 1982 when Nashville songwriters Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley wrote and recorded the demo for this. They had a hard time finding anyone to record the song, and it was a full year before Roger Whittaker became the first artist to take it on. Following Whittaker's version, several artists recorded the song, including Sheena Easton, Lee Greenwood, B.J. Thomas, Lou Rawls (who was the first to chart with the songs, hitting #65 US), Gladys Knight & The Pips and Gary Morris. Morris' version became a #4 country hit, which led to Silbar & Henley winning the Country Music Association (CMA) Award for Song of the Year. Gladys Knight & The Pips had a R&B hit with their version, which they retitled, "Hero."
Suggestion credit: Brian - Funchal Madeira, Portugal
Larry Henley came up with the title and Jeff Silbar loved it, especially since he was learning to fly planes at the time. The title came out of a poem Henley had written. Instead of writing the chorus first (like Silbar and Henley usually did), they wrote it from start to finish. They were done writing it by the end of the day.
The demo that Silbar and Henley recorded had a medium tempo. Their music publisher had the idea of slowing it down and making it a ballad.
This was conceived as a love song from a man to a woman or vice versa, but it ended up with lyrics that were more universal, and could apply to many different types of relationships (friends, family, etc.). This is a major reason why the song was so successful.
The most famous version of this song was Bette Midler's, who recorded it in 1988 for the movie Beaches, in which she starred. It appears in a dramatic scene at the end of the film after the character played by Barbara Hershey dies. After Midler's version became a hit, many other artists recorded the song, including Willie Nelson, John Tesh, Patti LaBelle, Perry Como and Judy Collins. It is one of the most performed songs of all time.
Gary Morris still performs this ballad live and usually precedes it by saying, "Bette is free to sing this however she wants but personally I think she butchered it."
Suggestion credit: David - Lubbock, TX
The Gladys Knight & the Pips version, renamed "Hero", was on the soundtrack of the 1986 film The George McKenna Story.
Suggestion credit: Ron - Los Angeles, CA
Midler revealed to The London Times February 14, 2009, that she initially disliked this song, but it later grew on her. She explained: "It's really grown on me. When I first heard it, I said, 'I'm not singing that song,' but the friend who gave it to me said, 'If you don't sing it I'll never speak to you again', so of course I had to sing the damned song. Whatever reservations I might have had I certainly don't have any more."
This won the Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1990.
Midler performed this song following the death montage at the Oscars in 2014. It was her first time singing at the Oscars.
Staley from Dallas, TxIt's understandable that Gary Morris would dislike Bette Midler's version (and potentially vice versa), because they are very different arrangements. Lou Rawls had the first hit with it, and I like his best--it's much more upbeat and breezy. Morris did a very morose, somber styled take on the song, and Bette's is somewhere in between. Given the lyrics, there's not really a wrong or right.
Captain from Southampton , United KingdomThis song has to be the most mawkish and patronising ever written. I believe that anyone who has it dedicated to them would be acquitted by any jury if they chopped up the person who dedicated it to them. And I'm stunned that it doesn't appear to have happened yet.
Gary from Seattle, WaWho is Gary Morris??
Wendy from Shawano, WiThis is one of the prettiest songs I know. Too bad all the kerioke setups only have the Bette Midler bastardization--you can't even sing the original lyrics to it because the music's so stretched out for her babble-lyrics.
John from Brisbane, United StatesHe taught me and now I cant talk to him through this beautiful song.He was my best mentor.He died suddenly.
Sara from Silver Spring, MdSome sources claim Bette actually recorded this in the late 1970s and Barbra Streisand was the artist the song was written for but she left the studio!
Jan from Knoxville, TnI first heard this song when Lee Greenwood did it in the mid 80's while I was stationed at Dover AFB, DE. When I went to Iraklion AS, Crete, Greece, soon after that, he was the only USO tour that came over to us and he sang it along with 'God Bless the USA'. It is a touching song that can apply to anyone you admire. When we lost our Mother, who was an inspiration to many, my sisters and I had it played at her funeral, to show how much we thought of her. I've also heard it played at weddings. I've heard several versions of it. For anyone that doesn't like it, or think of someone (besides themselves), when this song is played, I can only feel sorry for, because they either think they are the center of the universe, or they had a sad life and can't move on . . . I only wish I had the voice of any of the artists that have sung it, but know better than to try it myself. Jan, Knoxville, TN
Anne from Dodge City, KsIf anyone ever started a song honoring me with the phrase, "must have been cold there in my shadow." I would stand up and leave. Who would even sing that???
John from Tacoma, WaIn 2001, Sonata Arctica recorded a heavy metal version of this song.
Jay from Mom, Ctoh my god this is probably my favorite song. Bette is the most talented woman in the world and her vocal take on this song never leaves me without a tear.
Farrah from Elon, NcLarry Henley was also lead singer of The Newbeats, who were famous for the song, "Bread And Butter".
Catherine from Glasgow, Englandthis song makes me cry!! (in a good way)
AnonymousSorry guys. The Willie Nelson version was released in 1984 on the "City of New Orleans" album. It was also used in a video montage presented by the New York Mets baseball team on Fan Appreciation Day at the end of the 1986 season. "Beaches" wasn't released until 1988.
Martin from Los Barrios, SpainThe Lee Greenwood version was the first I heard and I've got the single way back in the early eighties
Annabelle from Eugene, OrOh, My, Gosh! I've always hated this song since the moment I first heard it! The most embarrassing moment of my life was when I was in first grade, my instructional assistant, Catherine, forced me to sing this for my friend and instructional assistant, Nancy Meyer. When I sang this, the embarrassing part was when all the kids in the audience started laughing at me! And ever since that day, everytime the song would come on the radio, I would say "Somebody Please, Get that song away from me!", and I would turn the radio off, or I would turn it to another radio station.
Wayne from Pasadena, MdThe music on Lee Greenwood's version to me, is awesome and I don't know why his version wasn't released as a single. Most people haven't heard it.
Elizabeth from New York, NyThis song I think is about someone who is there for you all the time behind the scenes. They mean a lot to you, but no one knows it. And you just want to let them know what they mean to you.
David from Charleston, ScGary is free to bad-mouth someone who had a much bigger hit with the song he recorded but it only makes him the lesser person. Sour grapes!