BetteBack February 24, 1991: Gold’s melancholy ‘Distance’ Gulf War is unofficial anthem

Altoona Mirror
February 24, 1991


Imagine that you hate war – its senselessness, its destruction, its allout inhumanity – and so you write a song expressing all that. But no one’s particularly interested in hearing it… until an actual war starts.

“It’s sadly ironic that the song is meaningful now,” said Julie Gold, who has watched “From a Distance,” a song she wrote five years ago, become an unofficial anthem of the Persian Gulf war. Winner of the Grammy for best song, it is one of the most frequently requested songs both on radio stations here and on Armed Forces Radio in Saudi Arabia.

The wistful, affecting ballad, a version of which was released by Bette Midler last fall, has struck the proverbial chord in America.

Perhaps it is emblematic of the mood surrounding this war – it’s not an angry song, but a rather melancholy one, a call to harmony rather than to arms or even to protest.

“To hear people tell me what I’ve done to affect their lives …. I had a woman crying on the phone to me. They say it’s given them strength,”

Ms. Gold said in a recent interview as she prepared for an appearance at the Birchmere nightclub in Alexandria, Va.

Ms. Midler’s version of “From a Distance” has been No. I on the Billboard magazine’s adult contemporary chart and on its Hot IOO list for 19 weeks. The 35-year-old songwriter never before had one of her works recorded.

In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that Ms. Gold – a face-scrunching, armgesturing, instantly endearing sort – supported herself by demonstrating vacuum cleaners and working in a Venetian blind factory. A native of Philadelphia who moved to New York after college, Ms. Gold has been writing songs just about forever.

Although she quit her last “day job” 18 months ago to concentrate on songwriting, it was not until “From a Distance” became so popular that she felt that she d arrived.

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