March is Women’s History Month. It’s recognition of achievement and a celebration of the effort and struggle that we hope inspires more women to dream and accomplish.
In 1992 Peg and I watched the first show of Austin City Limits – Season 17. The program featured female songwriters. On the show were Nanci Griffith, the Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Julie Gold. We were familiar with Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter, but not Nanci Griffith nor Julie Gold. We fell in love with Nanci Griffith, her story telling, her songs and her singing. She introduced Julie Gold, the only one not playing guitar, who sang two of her songs and accompanied herself on grand piano. She sang “From a Distance” and “Heaven.” Nanci Griffith recorded them both.
Julie Gold is a far cry from Country Western, but that makes no difference. I used to write lyrics for my buddy Art Mineo, a Tacoma night club musical icon for decades, before I met him. Art would play his songs on his grand piano and they sounded Italian. I would play the same songs on my baby grand and they sounded Country Western. How could either be wrong?
Song writers face a hard life. Julie Gold wrote about her early struggles: “In 1978, at the age of 22, I came to New York in pursuit of my dream of being a songwriter. And while dreams are essential, they don’t pay the rent. For years, I worked various temp jobs while gigging at night and sending songs out whenever possible. I demonstrated vacuum cleaners, Mr. Coffees and toaster ovens. I worked the flea markets, as a proofreader, for a dentist and at a venetian blinds factory.” Read more of her story here (It’s worth the read.) – performingsongwriter.com/from-a-distance/
From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow-capped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes thru the land
It’s the voice of hope
It’s the voice of peace
It’s the voice of every man
– Julie Gold
On August 30, 1988 Nanci Griffith appeared on the David Letterman Show and sang “From a Distance” from her 1987 album “Lone Star State of Mind”.
Bette Midler recorded “From a Distance” the award wining “Song of the Year” and sang it Live at the Grammy Awards 1991.
My favorite, favorite, favorite clip of the song features Julie Gold on stage singing and accompanying herself on grand piano as she talks about changing the world (2011).
I have several Nanci Griffith song books. I have a number of favorite songs from each. “Late Night Grade Hotel” has both “From a Distance” and “Heaven.” I can’t play “From a Distance” without tearing up. We need to change the world . . . right now . . . not distantly . . . but up close.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.