97: Wind Beneath My Wings

97: Wind Beneath My Wings

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Wind Beneath My Wings

Story by Larry Henley

Song written by Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar

Recorded by Bette Midler, Gary Morris, Lou Rawls, Gladys Knight and others

I was at the writers’ office on Music Row one day and I walked past Jeff Silbar’s office. He was strumming his guitar, and after a particular chord, I said, “Play that again.”

He said, “Play what again?”

And I said, “That chord you just played. I just want to hear it one more time.” And when he struck that chord, my mind went, “It must have been cold there in my shadow.” I wasn’t even sure what it meant really.

This was around 1982. I had been working on “Wind Beneath My Wings” for a couple of years and I couldn’t figure out how to get it started. We wrote a little bit on it that night. We wrote the first couple of lines and the first line in the chorus, I think. Then Jeff’s mother came in and he had to go with her somewhere. I was leaving for Texas the next day to go fishing. And I couldn’t get the song off my mind. It was driving me crazy. I kept trying to write it in my head. I stayed up all night trying to write that.

The next morning, my friend and I went fishing. We were about 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. We’d been fishing for an hour without a bite and I told him, “I don’t think we’re going to catch any fish.” Then I said, “Do you have a piece of paper and a pencil?” He brought me a paper sack and a pencil. And I finished “Wind Beneath My Wings” on that paper sack. Then I signed it and gave it to his wife and said, “Keep this because it might be worth something someday, because I think it’s the best thing I ever wrote.”

When we demoed the song, Roger Whittaker happened to be cutting and Chet Atkins was producing him, so our publisher took the song right over to him. He was the first one to cut it. I don’t think he released it as a single, unless it was released in Europe. Then we did a mass mailing to everybody who we knew was recording, and they all cut it!

We thought Lee Greenwood was going to have the biggest single on it, but then Gary Morris heard about the song and he sent somebody from Warner Bros. over to get a copy of the tape. The next thing we knew, Gary Morris was going to put it out as a single. I didn’t even know who Gary Morris was at the time, but he did a great job on it. I won Song of the Year for it, and Gary won Single of the Year, too.

Then, in 1989, they were looking for songs for the movie Beaches, and Bette Midler was going to star in it. I think her hairdresser told her about the song. The next thing I knew, they called me and told me Bette had cut our song. By that time, it had been cut so many times I didn’t get that excited about it anymore. I knew they were going to use it in a movie, but I didn’t even know if the song fit with the movie. I had a few songs that were in movies before and nothing really ever came of them.

When I heard Bette’s version, I didn’t really like the way she had changed the lyric. She changed a couple of the lines and she made it fit the movie. And after it came out in the movie, it charted on the pop charts. It came out at like #50 and then it moved up very quickly. By the time it got to about #20, I thought, “Well, maybe it’s not so bad that she changed the lyric after all.” By the time it hit #1, I had completely forgotten what I was even mad about. And it did fit the movie perfectly. The next year, the song won a Grammy.

A few years after that, a friend and I were taking a pot-bellied stove to a church in the jungle in Hawaii. We went into the church and put the stove down and I looked up on the mantle of this church and someone had written down the lyrics to my song on the mantle of this church. I said, “Where did you get that?” He told me somebody had mailed it to him from Brazil. He didn’t even know it was a song; he just thought it was a poem. And I said, “Let me sign that for you. I wrote that song.”

He didn’t want me to have it. He thought I was lying, I guess. But I finally did take it apart and signed it for him. But just to think that I found the lyrics to my song out in the middle of the jungle like that was incredible to me.

Wind Beneath My Wings

It must have been cold there in my shadow,

to never have sunlight on your face.

You were content to let me shine;

you always walked a step behind.

So I was the one with all the glory,

while you were the one with all the strength.

A beautiful face without a name

A beautiful smile to hide the pain.


Did you ever know that you’re my hero,

and everything I would like to be?

I can fly higher than an eagle,

’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,

but I’ve got it all here in my heart.

I want you to know I know the truth

I would be nothing without you.


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