Nanci Griffith adopted and adapted this Julie Gold composition, first releasing it on her crossover LP Lone Star State Of Mind (1987). The intimate and respectful nature of the song is perfectly matched to Griffith’s understated and thoughtful delivery style. Her chime-like vocals ring pure, and in the truest sense of the folk tradition, with ultimate conviction. The alternating perspectives and points of view lyrically exemplify Gold’s message of global consciousness, driving home the catch phrase ‘think globally, act locally’. Likewise, this bestows a sincere desire for peace, projecting a positive future where the universal agenda includes “harmony [that] echoes through the land/It’s the hope of hope/It’s the voice of peace/It’s the voice of every man”.
Adult-contemporary diva Bette Midler included “From A Distance” on her Some People’s Lives (1990) disc. Her chart topping version garnered Gold a well-deserved song writing Grammy. She has frequently called Midler “her liberator, for first making this song so famous” adding that Griffith is likewise her “mentor, for first placing a hold on the song [and] valuing it”.
The overwhelming success of the song led other performers to incorporate it into their repertoire. These range from the comparatively staid renderings by Cliff Richard, Michael Ball and Judy Collins to more effective versions from the Byrds and Kathy Mattea. An achingly stirring reading from Griffith can be found on her One Fair Summer Evening (1988) concert release.