Songfacts: You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.
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, Gladys Knight & The Pips and Gary Morris. MorrisÕ 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.” (thanks, Brian – Funchal Madeira, Portugal, for above 2)
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 was Midler’s. She recorded it in 1988 for her movie, Beaches. It was used in a dramatic scene at the end of the movie after the character played by Barbara Hershey died.
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.
This is the most popular song for funerals, beating out Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”