Franciscan Alert: ‘500 Miles’ by Roger McGuinn

by Sister Julie Ann on July 31, 2011

St. Clare prayed: “May I feel what Your friends feel, O Jesus…” This August 2011, called to be sensitive to the growing needs of the poor and desperate across the many miles in our world, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity offer for reflection ‘500 Miles’ by Roger McGuinn.

This August 2011 Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity offer for reflection Roger McGuinn's '500 Miles' as a free music download.

About Roger McGuinn

Jim McGuinn, later known as Roger, was already a veteran of the New York and Los Angeles music scene when he co-founded the group that would become the Byrds with Gene Clark and David Crosby in 1964.
Prior to forming the Byrds, Roger toured and performed folk music with the Limeliters, Chad Mitchell Trio and Bobby Darin as a guitarist and banjo player. McGuinn, a Chicago native, studied at the Old Town School of Folk Music and was active on Chicago’s folk scene, where he was strongly influenced as a teenager by Bob Gibson.
In November, 1995, McGuinn began recording and uploading to the internet a series of traditional folk songs. The recordings are available for free download at the ‘Folk Den’, part of his home page.

From Roger McGuinn’s Blog Entry about ‘500 Miles’.

Hedy West (April 6, 1938 – July 3, 2005) was an American folksinger and songwriter. Her song “500 miles,” has been covered by Bobby Bare (a Billboard Top 10 hit in 1963), The Highwaymen, The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, Peter & Gordon, The Brothers Four and many others. A great number of Hedy’s songs, including the raw materials for “500 Miles” came from her paternal grandmother Lily West who passed on the songs she had learned as a child.

This has a sweet melody and a sad story of poverty and desolation.


If you miss this train I’m on then you’ll know that I have gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles
A hundred miles A hundred miles A hundred miles A hundred miles
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles

Lord I’m one Lord I’m two Lord I’m three Lord I’m four
Lord I’m five hundred miles from my home
Five hundred miles five hundred miles five hundred miles five hundred miles
Lord I’m five hundred miles from my home

Not a shirt on my back not a penny to my name
Lord I can’t go on home this a-way
This a-way this a-way this a-way this a-way
Lord I can’t go on home this a-way

If you miss this train I’m on then you’ll know that I have gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles
A hundred miles A hundred miles  A hundred miles A hundred miles
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles


17 thoughts on “Franciscan Alert: ‘500 Miles’ by Roger McGuinn”

  1. When I listened to this as a young adult, I identified with being  a long way from home, not my physical home but the “home” that is within me, the “me in Christ”. I was just beginning my spiritual growth in religious life. Now, in my 6th decade,my 4th decade in religious life, I was delighted not to feel that yearning for “home”. Home is now within, steady and comforting. Though I have no plans to stop growing, like St. Francis, I now “carry” home with me and am always “there”.

  2. Skathleen says:

    What a blast from the past!  I remember clearly my first week as a 15 year old, new to the community.  A sing-along was planned out in the court and this was one of the songs sung.  I remember a lot of tears from all those of us who were homesick!  Maybe this wasn't a good song choice for the occasion!  Now when I hear this familiar melody and words it inspires a whole different set of thoughts.  How far the journey has carried me since those tearful days.  How far the journey and the adventure stretches before me and not in a fearful way, but in the knowledge of knowing He won't miss the train I'm on!

  3. sannette says:

    Oh, does this one bring back wonderful memories! We use to sing this one so many times in my Formation years at the Motherhouse. I guess we each identified with it in one way or another. The train has come a long way, and still it rolls along. The latest stop being Greenwood ,MS. You never know where the Lord will take you nor where He awaits you. What we do know is His always journeying with us

  4. Admiral Byrds says:

    Any day I hear Roger's chiming 12 string is a good day

  5. Barb Ritchie says:

    Beautiful–Thank you so much.  I have never heard this rendition before; it was both sad and peaceful.  Thanks again.  🙂  Barb Ritchie (Anne Marie Lom's cousin)

  6. srsharon says:

    Hedy West's song “500 Miles” does bring back many memories over the years when it was popular. Thank you!  Perhaps, her journey is ended but her songs still live on in the hearts of many.  This day we remember in prayer all those “over the miles” who are unemployed that they may find meaningful work so they can raise their families.

  7. Thank you, Barb, for visiting our website and for commenting. We welcome your insights anytime.

  8. Let's make it a month of good days and more… Thanks for your comment! We join you in applauding Roger's high quality guitar playing and this great song!

  9. Sister Marialee says:

    Oh my, Oh my! How I remember Peter, Paul, & Mary sing'n this one. How many miles “the Heart of my heart, Jesus” has taken me since then. From Ohia to what my Dad first called it “Manitoewack”. What a wonderful journey…then…now…to come… What a joy the trip was this summer from Florida to Holy Family Convent to be with my Community, my sisters on the journey. Part of the prayer I say every night  for you, my sisters, wherever you are: …”Dear Lord, teach us to care deeply for one another. Help me to understand that we are united by a special closeness within the larger family of our Order…. Distance is no deterrent to my union with each one, because in the sphere of love, all are brought together. Today and everyday I ask Your grace for myself and each member of my Order that we may find  happiness and peace in our journey towards You.”  Found this card when I helped in the Communications Department at HFC. Was supposed to be words of Saint Clare of Assisi titled; A SISTER'S PRAYER. “Prophets of Peace”, “Believers in Love”, Franciscan Sisters of Chritian Charity –
    Gentle Blessings,  Sister Marialee

  10. I so love singing and playing this song on  my guitar!!! It speaks to my Franciscan mendicant spirit of being “on the road” relying on God's grace and guidance throughout so many experiences from the desert of AZ, to the northern woods of MI and WI to the Andes mts of Peru…

    Thanks so very much Roger for sharing your gift of music and song with us!!!

  11. We tuck you and your mother in our prayers as you take care of each other right now. May the Lord bless you and your whole family.

  12. Sister Marialee says:

    Thank you  for the prayers…that means everything…God Bless.

  13. Smaryb says:

    I am very fond of this song. There is so much meaning in the words. I don't think I am still 500 miles away, I hope to be getting closer.
    Thank you, for putting this song on the web page.
    Sister Mary Bodwin

  14. Sr. Delores says:

    This song brings back powerful memories.  Home does have a new meaning for me now.  With ministry to the elderly, they are teaching me to get ready for our real home. 
      The Lord has helped me to come home to the inner place where He dwells within.  The journey is holy if we allow Him to lead each day…  Sr. Delores

  15. Srosangela says:

    I love this song and also have so many memories. Being  in Ohio away from home and from the Convent I would feel very lonely at times. I really was 500 or more miles away from home. I would play the record with this song in my classroom as I worked on Saturday afternoon. Until now I haven't heard it for years. Thanks for bringing it back.

  16. Maggie Mcconnaha says:

    I really like this song, but I've only ever heard it sung by the “Innocence Mission,” a favorite group of my mom's. It was cool to hear it by someone else.

  17. Franciscanized World joins your Mom in appreciating the music and good work done by the Innocence Mission as well. Thanks for letting us know your own thoughts on the song, Maggie.

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