The Story of... 'Wind Beneath My Wings' by Bette Midler

24 October 2019, 14:37

Wind Beneath My Wings
Wind Beneath My Wings. Picture: Buena Vista/Atlantic

By Tom Eames

It's one of the biggest tearjerker songs of all time, and is guaranteed to make you feel all emotional.

Bette Midler recorded the most famous version of 'Wind Beneath My Wings' in 1988, and it became one of her signature songs.

But who recorded it first and what inspired the power ballad? Here's all the fascinating facts:

  1. Who wrote 'Wind Beneath My Wings'?

    The song was written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley.

    The pair recorded a demo of the song, and gave it to musician Bob Montgomery.

    Montgomery recorded his own demo version of the song, changing it from the mid-tempo original he was given, to a ballad.

    Silbar and Henley then offered it around to many other artists.

  2. What inspired the song?

    Larry Henley came up with the title and Jeff Silbar was a big fan, particularly as he was learning to fly planes at the time.

    The title came from a poem Henley had written. Instead of writing the chorus first (like the pair usually did), they wrote it from start to finish. They finished writing it by the end of the day.

    It was initially conceived as a love song from a lover to another, but the lyrics ended up being something more universal, and could apply to various types of relationships, such as friends or family, helping the song's lasting popularity.

  3. Many artists recorded it before Bette Midler

    The song was first recorded by Kamahl in 1982 for a country album he was making, but it was not commercially released as didn't quite suit the style.

    Instead, Roger Whittaker recorded the song, followed soon after by Sheena Easton and Lee Greenwood.

    It also had charted versions by Colleen Hewett (1982), Lou Rawls (1983), Gladys Knight & the Pips (1983), and Gary Morris (1983).

    Perry Como also recorded the song for his final album Today a year before Midler received it. He wanted to release it as a single, but RCA refused. Como was apparently so angry, he vowed to never record for the label ever again.

  4. When did Bette Midler record it?

    Bette Midler recorded a version of the song for the soundtrack of 1988 drama Beaches, in which she also starred as singer CC Bloom.

    The song features in a heartbreaking scene when CC's best friend Victoria passes away due to cancer, after watching the sun setting over the beach.

    Who's chopping onions?

    However, it was not chosen as the soundtrack's lead single. That was given to Midler's version of 'Under the Boardwalk'.

    It was released as the second single in February 1989, after the box office success of the movie. The song quickly became a #1 hit on the US singles chart, and number three in the UK.

    Bette Midler's 7 greatest songs ever

    Midler's version was awarded a platinum disc by the RIAA for sales exceeding one million copies in the US alone. It also won Grammys for Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 1990.

  5. When else has Bette Midler performed it?

    Midler performed the song after the annual in memoriam montage at the 86th Academy Awards in 2014.

    She also performed the song alongside Krusty the Clown, on season 4 episode 22 of The Simpsons in 1993.

    Midler later performed the song live at the Prayer for America memorial service held at Yankee Stadium soon after the September 11 attacks.

  6. Bette Midler wasn't a fan at first

    Thankfully, the song later grew on her.

    She explained to the Times in 2009: "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."

  7. It's one of the most played songs at funerals

    In 2002, it topped a UK list of most played songs at funerals, ahead of 'My Heart Will Go On' by Celine Dion.

    In 2019, it was still ranking in the top 10 alongside 'Angels' by Robbie Williams and Frank Sinatra's 'My Way;.