Songs on Screen: How ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ Taught Me About Sisterly Bonding

Songs On Screen: Tributes by writers to their favorite musical moments from TV and film. Check out all the entries in the series here. 

I remember the day my mother and sister discovered that I had not yet seen the movie, Beaches. Back in 2001, I was 13-years-old, and we were all hanging out in the kitchen as Jewish families do, noshing on chips, talking about nothing important, when all of a sudden, they audibly gasped, and hands swung to their chests, devastated at the news.

“Where do you think the song, ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings,” comes from?” my older sister, Jessica, asked.

“I don”t know,” I said, getting defensive. “It”s just another love song, right? I like ‘The Rose” better anyway.”

“No, no. I mean, yes, that”s great, too. But you need to see Beaches,” Jessica shook her head.

I was a freshman in high school and Jessica was home from college for  winter break. That evening we trudged through the snow covered streets of D.C. to the nearest Blockbuster to rent the VHS (RIP video stores), ordered two medium pizzas from Papa John”s, and settled in on the couch to watch.

Two hours later, we had shifted onto the same couch, laughing at each other as we bawled our eyes out. Growing up with classic Disney films such as Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid, I associated true love with finding a husband.  Beaches shook that notion by focusing on how powerful and important female friendship can be.

Like any relationship, real friendship is complex and layered. C.C. Bloom (Bette Midler) and Hillary Whitney Essex (Barbara Hershey) were as different as they come. They didn”t spend every minute of every day together, but they knew each other better than anyone. These women made mistakes, hurt each other, but more importantly, forgave and forgot, and thrived together.

“The Wind Beneath my Wings” doesn”t play until the final scenes of the movie. The ballad soars into your soul as you watch Hillary pass away, leaving her only child in the care of C.C. It”s a dramatic, and heart wrenching ending, that beautifully shows the love and respect C.C. and Hillary shared.

Beaches was my Frozen. Looking at my sister, someone I can”t believe came from the same womb as me, and with whom I spar with often, I now saw her as my ride-or-die, that person who”d stick with me even if I acted like a terrible C.C. sometimes, and I with her, even if she acted like a self- righteous Hillary sometimes. As the credits roll, an instrumental version of the song plays, reigniting more tears, if you had any left in your body.

Bette Midler wasn”t the first artist to record “The Wind Beneath My Wings” nor was it the song used to promote the film; that honor fell to her rendition of the The Drifter”s, “Under the Boardwalk.” In fact, Midler wasn”t even a fan of the song when she first heard it, but after a friend threatened she”d never talk to her again if she didn”t record it, Midler finally gave in.

Written by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henly in 1982, “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” was originally a pop song, but was transformed into a ballad with help of musician, Bob Montgomery. Numerous artists had recorded the track but it wasn”t until Midler sang it on the Beaches soundtrack, that it skyrocketed to fame, winning Grammys for Record the Year and Song of the Year, hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and went Platinum by 1990.

The twenty-five year anniversary of Beaches has come and gone, and as I re-watched this beloved film a few days ago, the moment I heard the first few notes of “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” I burst into an uncontrollable cry. This movie still stays with me, and this song fills the closing montage scenes, perfectly encapsulating every emotion and feeling happening on screen.

Eager to share this memory, I dabbed my face with tissues, and texted my sister, who lives 3,000 miles away, “Do you remember the first time we watched Beaches together?”

“No. Nothing comes to mind. Why?” she texted back, as I stared at my phone in disappointment. “Wait, why?”

This made me laugh out loud. Of course, Jessica wouldn”t remember. That was probably her tenth time seeing Beaches, and I never actually told her what this movie meant to me.

“No reason.” I responded. “Don”t worry about it.”

“Crap. Now all I want to do is watch Beaches,” she texted. “Gotta run. Miss you.”

“Miss you, too” I replied.

Emily Bicks is a writer, actor, lover, and all around sports freak. Follow her on twitter @MissBicks.