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Who Sang It Best? "Wind Beneath My Wings"

Music enthusiast FlourishAnyway introduces some fun competition into the songs that have been covered by many artists by ranking them.

Some of the most beloved songs have been covered by a variety of artists over the years. We look at the tune, "Wind Beneath My Wings" first recorded by Roger Whittaker then rank 14 contenders. Who do you prefer?

Some of the most beloved songs have been covered by a variety of artists over the years. We look at the tune, "Wind Beneath My Wings" first recorded by Roger Whittaker then rank 14 contenders. Who do you prefer?

"Wind Beneath My Wings" Is an Inspirational Expression of Gratitude

Where there is a spotlight and a stage some of us will naturally seek the bright lights, fame, and fanfare while others are more comfortable standing back supportively in the shadows. These are the quiet allies who

  • volunteer words of inspiration and encouragement
  • lend a shoulder to cry on, and
  • lead by example.

Sadly, their important sacrifices are often underappreciated.

The songwriters borrowed the title, "Wind Beneath My Wings" from a poem that one of them had written. It was further bolstered by the other songwriter's interest in flying planes. Initially, they envisioned it as an expression of gratitude directed towards a lover. However, the ditty grew to encompass gratefulness towards a friend, mentor, parent, or another champion in one's life who plays the role of the silent supporter. It has since become one of the most popular songs for funerals and memorial services.

Many artists have recorded "Wind Beneath My Wings," with genres encompassing pop, rock, country, R&B, and even metal. Find your favorite version below as we look at who sang it best.

"Who Sang It Best?": Here's How It Works

In the "Who Sang It Best?" series, we start with the original version of popular songs that have been covered multiple times. Then we present a set of up to 14 ranked contenders, artists who have released cover versions in any genre.

Use the polls below to vote on your preferences:

  • Do you prefer the original song or a cover version?
  • Which of the cover versions do you prefer?

"Wind Beneath My Wings" by Roger Whittaker (1982)

If you're like me, you sure didn't see this one coming! I mean, who is this Roger Whittaker, and why is he stealing the limelight on Bette Midler's song? Contrary to what you might believe, however, the diva was not, by far, the first to release "Wind Beneath My Wings" commercially. And that's where Kenyan-born English singer Roger Whittaker enters into the mix.

When songwriters Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley shopped their ballad around to a number of artists, Whittaker became the first to release it commercially. A folk and pop musician, Whittaker remains a one-hit-wonder on the mainstream US pop charts with the 1975 song, "The Last Farewell." His 1982 album featured "Wind Beneath My Wings" as its title track. Unfortunately, however, the singer failed to achieve radio success for his efforts.

Listening to Whittaker's original version, I could understand why. Although his vocals are crisp, his performance lacks depth of feeling, thereby giving his rendition a caricature-like quality. Stilted and socially awkward, it resembles elevator music. The relative lack of vocal crescendos doesn't match the emotional message of the lyrics. Thankfully, there were other artists who later rescued the song from oblivion.

Reader Poll

1. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler (1989)

The Divine Miss M totally crushes this number. In 1989, the actress/singer released this version as part of the soundtrack for the major motion picture Beaches, a 1988 comedy-drama about two lifelong BFFs who struggle with issues of balancing career and family. Although the tearjerker film was panned by critics, Bette Midler's inspirational vocals on "Wind Beneath My Wings" and other tunes from the movie earned her wide acclaim. The song ascended to #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and early the following year, it earned her Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Midler delivers this love song of awe-filled gratitude with a voice that soars effortlessly towards emotional highs (e.g., "You're everything I wish I could be"). She also offers up emotional complexity using vocal fillers that hint of regret at not having properly shared her deep appreciation earlier in life (e.g., "for so long," "of course I know it"). The closing stanza presents both indebtedness and sorrow, lending itself to sweet forgiveness:

Fly, fly, fly high against the sky
So high I almost touch the sky
Thank you, thank you
Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.

My only criticism of Midler's version pertains to the echo-like acoustics; they make her sound like she's in a tunnel, particularly in the beginning.

2. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Gary Morris (1983)

In this early ballad from 1983, it's as if Gary Morris is comforting a lover, wishing he could turn back the hands of time. This is a soft, slow expression of both appreciation and nuanced regret. It is flawless. No wonder he won Song of the Year by both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association for this.

With buttery vocals, Morris gifts us this authentic country-pop version and exposes his vulnerability. He enunciates beautifully, and his tenor voice truly shines when he lets it soar (although those high notes pale compared to the quality of his live performances). After several years in the country music industry, Morris became a stage actor, starring as Jean Valjean in the Broadway musical Les Misérables and appearing in the opera La Boheme.

3. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Céline Dion (2008)

Canadian superstar Céline Dion never recorded this song, but her 2008 concert performance of it in Geneva remains popular on social media. Although hurrying a bit too much in some segments, the pop diva offers a quicker paced interpretation against a backdrop of saxophone textured splendor.

Dion specializes in those rarefied, sky-high notes that remind me of Icharus, the youth in Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun. I wish she had dialed up the sense of loss and remorse at having not properly expressed gratitude for so long. That oversight is emotionally weighty and demands to be reflected more in this version. Usually Dion is an over-the-top vocal drama queen, so this was surprising.

4. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Lou Rawls (1983)

R&B singer Lou Rawls launches this 1983 version of "Wind Beneath My Wings" with a spoken introduction that sounds like it could be sexy pillow talk. Gosh, should we even be here with Lou? If you can get through that awkwardness, better stuff awaits.

Rawls subsequently builds it up into a jammin' uptempo track, hitting high notes with gusto and expressing authenticity, as exemplified by the way he creatively croons, "you are my he-RO." In 1985, the day before Ronald Reagan's second inauguration, the Grammy Award-winning singer performed this tune at the 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala.

5. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Idina Menzel (2017)

You've heard of Indina Menzel, the Broadway phenom who became globally famous for her Disney song, "Let It Go" from Frozen. In 2017, the singer attempted to segue into acting on the small screen with a made-for-television remake of Beaches that included a cover of "Wind Beneath My Wings." (Word on the street is that her singing far surpassed her acting.)

Menzel's version initially sounds muffled. It doesn't start properly and has an electronica vibe that doesn't flatter the song. While her voice is rich, she is too quick to move on, and unfortunately, she fails to convey the regret of failing to recognize a loved one's years of unwavering support. These points, however, are not huge drawbacks when you consider how Menzel's voice rises to impressive vocal crests, thus showcasing her talent. In the end, she is flying high, in finest form, and doing vocal aerobics.

6. "Wind Beneath My Winds" by Sheena Easton (1982)

The beginning background notes in this version are childlike, and Sheena Easton's vocals are peeplike and timid. They evoke thoughts of the person in the shadow rather than the one who seeks the spotlight.

Although Easton's vocals climb to encompass the high notes, this song feels too deep, too emotionally complex for the coverage she provides it. It's not the right song for Easton, and she comes off as if she's merely trying to hit her marks. I prefer other offerings by this Scottish pop star, such as "9 to 5 (Morning Train)" (1980), "We've Got Tonight" (1983), or "Almost Over You" (1983).

7. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Gladys Knight & The Pips (1983)

Get ready to sway, as Gladys Knight, the Empress of Soul, takes us to church with her commendable rendition. She seems to be addressing a higher power as being the wind beneath her wings and truly feels the emotion in this track, thus allowing her voice to faintly tremble in awe.

While the Grammy Award-winning R&B songstress does an ample job reaching for the high notes, it is The Pips' background harmonies that earn this version bonus points. Knight was named to one of Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time." In addition, together with The Pips, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

8. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Colleen Hewett (1983)

If, like me, you're wondering who this woman is, you must not be Australian. She was heralded as that country's Queen of Pop in the early 1970s.

Both a singer and TV and theatre actress, Hewett offers here a version that is quicker in tempo than many others. However, her performance in this 1983 pop rendition is a little "extra." While the song's piano introduction perfectly sets the mood, Hewett tends to oversing the lyrics, dramatically filling the tune with flowery vocal effects (e.g., the breathy "nothing"). It made me want to call a time out to tell her to cut the drama and just sing the song.

9. "Wind Beneath My Wings/He Hawai'i Au" by Israel ("Iz") Kamakawiwoʻole (1995)

You've probably heard of native Hawaiian singer Israel ("Iz") Kamakawiwoʻole from his 1993 rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The song became a global sensation after his 1997 death. Miracles like that don't happen more than once, however, so I hope you're not expecting the same level of ethereal magic from this medley, "Wind Beneath My Wings/He Hawai'i Au."

That's not to say it's completely devoid of quality. The violins, muted woodwinds, and twinkling piano lend a soft, almost lullaby-like appeal, particularly in the beginning. Later, when the Hawaiian singer asks, "Did you ever know that you're my hero?" Iz's voice takes on seraphic features, but thereafter the emotional tone of the song deflates anticlimactically. Overall, it is not as celebratory as other renditions. It's middling at best.

Not being able to understand the Hawai'ian vocals, I was distracted rather than soothed by the indigenous background voices and the portion of the medley sung by Iz in his native tongue. This was a definite minus for me. However, it was probably an appropriate artistic choice given that the second song in the medley, "He Hawai'i Au," means, "I Am Hawai'ian."

Iz attempts to join two worlds here, that of his ancestral roots and that represented by pop music with classical influences. This version is perhaps best enjoyed by dedicated fans of the singer or people with strong ties to Hawaii.

10. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Willie Nelson (1996)

In this 1996 country version, the nasal sounds of Shotgun Willie are actually soothing and low-key dramatic, as if you're the one he's expressing gratitude to. In places, he may hurry along with the words, but Nelson delivers this number sincerely, as if he's addressing you directly. Rather than half-fill his interpretation with remorse, he uses this relaxing, subdued version to uplift.

11. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Gerald Levert & Eddie Levert (1995)

Lead vocalist of The O'Jays Eddie Levert joins his son Gerald in this R&B duet to give a shout out of gratitude for years of encouragement and support. The creative twist with this 1995 version is that both vocalists are addressing the song to one another, as evidenced by their improvised lyrics:

Did you ever know that you're my hero?
If you didn't, I'm telling you now, Daddy, Daddy
You're everything I would like to be
My son, my son, you're a part of me
I could fly higher than an eagle (yeah yeah yeah)
'Cause you are the wind beneath your daddy's wings (You are the wind beneath the wings)
You are the wind beneath your little son's wings, wings.

Throughout this rendition, the duo's vocals clearly impart the mixture of pride, pain, and loneliness involved with supporting a loved one from the sidelines. While it was touching for father and son to honor each other in this way, the improvised lyrics were over-the-top for me and felt emotionally clumsy. Most adult men don't use "daddy" and "little son" to refer to other adult family members, so this part felt downright syrupy.

Sadly, in 2007 and 2008, Levert lost both of his sons within 16 months of one another. They had been following in his footsteps as R&B singers.

12. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Kenny Rogers (1996)

Somewhere between the clipped articulation of lyrics and the halting way Kenny Rogers mechanically plods through this 1996 version, the country superstar completely abandons its inspirational intent. He half-heartedly reaches for the high notes but misses. It's clear he's just not feeling it. The result of Rogers' emotionally hollow effort is a tune that sounds like second-rate dinner music destined for the bargain bin.

13. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Sonata Artica (2001)

I thought that I'd hate this blaring power metal version. It has electric guitars that hardly seem appropriate for "Wind Beneath My Wings." Additionally, the singer has a distracting Finish accent that curiously disappears when he sings faster. Instead of being a disaster, call this unusual rendition "quirky and intriguing." The Finish metal band likes to fancy themselves as being influenced heavily by the style of Queen, the legendary British rock group.

14. "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Perry Como (1987)

Got a penchant for the fuddy-duddy easy listening sound? Great, because this version nails it. Think of it as your grandma's sound bite.

Como enunciates well but without emotional depth, thus the rendition comes across like insincere cotton candy fluff. Sounding as if Como tried to take a trip back in the magic time machine, this version reminds me of old Disney music, a vibe that's a complete mismatch for "Wind Beneath My Wings."

Como sought to release his version as a single, but RCA mercifully refused. In retaliation, he became so angry with the label that he vowed never to record for them again. The legendary singer received a lifetime Grammy Achievement Award and was granted three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his career contributions to radio, television, and music.

Reader Poll: Your Favorite Cover Version

© 2020 FlourishAnyway

Comments

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 30, 2020:

Nithya - I was surprised she didn't release it as a single. It was a good rendition. Thanks for commenting.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 30, 2020:

Jo - His is much better than I imagined. I'm glad you like it.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on August 29, 2020:

A great song, it is tough to choose because each singer has sung it beautifully in their unique way. If I have to choose I would go with "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Céline Dion .

Jo Miller from Tennessee on August 28, 2020:

Great song. Didn't realize it had been recorded so many times. That song just seems to belong to Bette Midler, but I really like Willie Nelson's version also. I had forgotten that he had recorded that.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 28, 2020:

Linda - I don't know why YouTube won't let the videos play in all countries. Thanks for listening to those you could. It's a lovely song.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 28, 2020:

MG - Thank you for stopping by. I hope you found a version that was your favorite.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on August 27, 2020:

What a lovely song and so well presented by you. It was great listening to the song.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 27, 2020:

Dora - Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I hope you are doing well.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 26, 2020:

I enjoyed listening to different versions of the song. Three of the videos wouldn't play for me, but I liked the other ones. I've never heard of the song before. Thank you for introducing me to it, Flourish. I think it's lovely.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 26, 2020:

I appreciate and agree with your analysis of Roger Whittaker's performance. Yes, others did better. I love the song.

Robert Sacchi on August 25, 2020:

That's another advantage to writing for HubPages. I learned a lot from researching for the Hubs I write.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 25, 2020:

Bob - Thanks for giving your take on this song. I didn't realize there were so many versions available either until I started researching this.

Robert Sacchi on August 24, 2020:

Didn't realize there were so many versions. I really liked Roger Whittaker's singing of "The Last Farewell". I prefer some of the cover versions of "Wind Beneath My Wings". I think this song may favor female vocalists.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2020:

Nell - I'm glad you found two that appealed significantly to you.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2020:

Greg - I'm glad you had an opportunity to listen to it.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2020:

Devika - Thank you for stopping by taking a look at the list.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2020:

Jeremiah - I am unsure, but I'm glad you like him.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2020:

Rajan - Thank you for specifying your favorite. Much appreciated.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2020:

Mary - I'm sorry it caused that reaction. I send you my best.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2020:

Heidi - I don't know why celebrities often re-release new versions of perfectly good originals so many times unless they had a creative take on it. Several Beatles songs are often-covered, including "Imagine," "Eleanor Rigby," "And I Love Her," and "Yesterday." I have "Imagine" slated for a future "Who Sang It Best?" Thanks for reading and voting.

Nell Rose from England on August 24, 2020:

It has to be Bette, and Iz. I loved his rendition of over the rainbow, and just had to listen to this. He was amazing. What a great list Flourish!

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on August 24, 2020:

Flourish - I'm pretty much on the Bette Bandwagon here, without question. However, the beauty of this exercise you've put together here is that I had not heard many, many of these versions of the song. I truly enjoyed the Roger Whittaker version...even though this was the very first time I'd ever heard it. Thanks for putting this out there, and have a good week, Flourish.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 24, 2020:

FlourishAnyway The original version is the one for me. I had no idea so many singers for this song. Your information is useful and the list of songs have increased my knowledge of many levels.

JEREMIAH MWANIKI KILUNDA from Nairobi on August 23, 2020:

Is he the same person who sang ' My land Is Kenya, from highland to the sea? Well I suppose he is the one. I like his songs.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 23, 2020:

I prefer the original song by Whittaker although some others have sung it very well. I love the crispness and clarity of the vocals.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 23, 2020:

This made me cry thinking of my husband. It's a beautiful song.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on August 23, 2020:

For me, it's always Bette Midler for this one.

BTW, one of the music history folks I follow on social said that the most covered song of all time is "Yesterday" by the Beatles. Really? I looked it up and even if it's not the all-time cover champ, some cover estimates are in the thousands. Who would have thought that? And why are we so fascinated by covers? Maybe because we don't like the original artist and want to hear what our faves would do with it?

Anyway... always enjoy the playlists and "who sang it best?" lists. Have a great weekend!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 23, 2020:

Peggy - She's pretty awesome with this signature song of hers. Thanks for stopping by!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 23, 2020:

Sherry - It's hard to beat Bette Midler.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 23, 2020:

Peg - Glad you found some others that you like too.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 23, 2020:

femi - Thank you. I'm sure they did have a song copyright and received royalties each time it was recorded, performed in public, downloaded, used in advertising, etc.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 23, 2020:

RoadMonkey - I didn't know that YouTube blocks that many videos. How frustrating. I'm glad that you were able to hear at least some of them. Thank you for stopping in and commenting. Play it on keyboard no matter what you sound like and sing it too!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 23, 2020:

Linda - She's divine for a reason.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 23, 2020:

Pamela - Thank you for weighing in. I learned a lot in researching this and had fun as well. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 23, 2020:

Bill - Most people only associate her with this song, so I wanted to give a little breadth to it. She's awesome though.

femi from Nigeria on August 22, 2020:

Great article i am surprised by so many renditions of same song. Did the song have no copyright ?

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 22, 2020:

Great song sung by so many artists! I've always loved the Bette Midler version but I listened to a few here that were really good.

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on August 22, 2020:

I didn't listen to all of the versions. Besides Gary Morris and Bette Midler, I am familiar with Willie Nelson's version, which I didn't much care for. I listened to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole and Lou Rawls. I liked both of them. Iz had such a beautiful voice, hard not to like. Still, if I have to pick one it would have to be Bette Midler.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 22, 2020:

I had no idea that Roger Whittaker was the first to sing this uplifting song. Bette Midler gets my vote, however, any number of good singers do justice to this song. Enjoy your weekend, and stay safe!

RoadMonkey on August 22, 2020:

I thought the musical background on the Roger Whittaker cover version was great but then I like Roger Whittaker. I wasn't able to see all of the videos, some were blocked as being not available in my country (UK) but I was able to hear a whole lot of them. I first heard this song sung by my daughter at her brother's wedding. I had never heard it before and loved it straight off. Then I found the keyboard chords and lyrics and was able to play it for myself (badly). I don't know who is my favorite singer on this, I just know I love the song.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 22, 2020:

Flourish, I love Iz's voice but I'm afraid I've gotta go with the divine MissM. No one can top her passion in this one.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 22, 2020:

I really like several of these singers. Roger Whittier is really good, but I truly like Celine Dion and Bette Midler. This is a tough decision for sure. This is a very beautiful song and I never knew so many people sang it. This is a very good article, Flourish.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 22, 2020:

I had no idea Whittaker sang it first, and I had no idea it had been covered that often. The only cover I've heard is the one by Midler, so I'll go with her. It's easy to choose when you've only heard one and liked it so much. :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 22, 2020:

John - It's good to compare them head to head. It can make all the difference in the world! Thank you for stopping in. Hope you are doing well.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 21, 2020:

Bette Midler has to be my favourite. I know Coleen Hewett well. She was Queen Of Pop here in Australia at the same time as John Farnham was King if I remember rightly. When she released this version I thought it was good, but on hearing it now, not so much. Great song to highlight.