Larry Joel Henley (June 30, 1937 – December 18, 2014) was an American singer and songwriter, best known for co-writing (with Jeff Silbar) the 1989 hit record "Wind Beneath My Wings".

Early life

Henley was born to Carl Henley and Helen Quinn[1] in Odessa, Texas on June 30, 1937.[2] He grew up in Odessa, Texas with three sisters, Barbara Henley, Jeanette Henley Chisholm and Pam Lutrell as well as a younger brother, Reggie Henley. He had originally planned on an acting career before becoming a singer and songwriter.[3]


He was the lead singer of the pop group the Newbeats, formed in 1964, singing in a distinctive falsetto.[4] The group had three hits that charted in the top 20 of Billboard magazine, with one of them, "Bread and Butter", reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts and selling over a million copies. They toured Australia and New Zealand with Roy Orbison, Ray Columbus and the Invaders and the Rolling Stones on the "Big Beat '65" tour.[5] The group's last single was released in 1974. Henley had a solo album, Piece a Cake, released in 1975.[6]

He co-wrote with Red Lane "'Til I Get It Right" for Tammy Wynette, a 1973 #1 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles, later covered by Barbra Streisand and Kenny Rogers. Other #1 country hits were his songs "Is It Still Over?" (performed by Randy Travis), "Lizzie and the Rainman" (performed by Tanya Tucker), and "He's a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)" (performed by Janie Fricke).[7] Other songs included "Shotgun Rider" for Delbert McClinton; "You're Welcome to Tonight" by Lynn Anderson and Gary Morris; and "The World Needs a Melody" by The Carter Family with Johnny Cash.[8][9]

Henley was a friend of Bobby Goldsboro and it was because of Henley's urging that Goldsboro sang the song "Honey".[10]

He was a 2012 inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. "Bread and Butter" has been used in Sunbeam Bread advertisements and multiple films, while "Wind Beneath My Wings" was part of the soundtrack for Beaches (1988).[4] "Love Is on the Air" written by Henley with Jim Hurt and Johnny Slate, performed by Lou Rawls was used in The Cannonball Run.[11]

The song "Wind Beneath My Wings" (written by Henley and Jeff Silbar) was a U.S. #1 hit for Bette Midler and has since totaled around 6 million radio air plays.[12] The song earned Henley and Silbar the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for 1989, and Bette Midler the Record of the Year award.[13] The song was originally recorded by Roger Whittaker in 1982 and has since been covered by numerous artists.


On December 18, 2014, Henley died of Lewy Body Dementia in Nashville, Tennessee at age 77.[7] He had been suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.[7] He is buried at Kelsey Cemetery in Gilmer, Texas.


  1. ^ Obituary, Rader Funeral Homes, Longview, Texas
  2. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 179–180. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  3. ^ "Larry Henley, a Writer of 'Wind Beneath My Wings,' Dies at 77". The New York Times. Reuters. 19 December 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (December 18, 2014). "Larry Henley, Nashville songwriter who co-wrote 'Wind Beneath My Wings,' dies at 77". Washington Post. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  5. ^ The Mod Father: Ray Columbus, Ray Columbus, Penguin UK, Jun 27, 2011
  6. ^ Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter Larry Henley Passes, Music Row, Robert K. Oermann, December 18, 2014
  7. ^ a b c ""Wind Beneath My Wings" Songwriter Larry Henley Dies". CMT News. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  8. ^ Donna Nolan-Wilson. "Wind beneath my wings co-writer Larry Henley hospitalized". AXS. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  9. ^ "Larry Henley • Top Songs as Writer • Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  10. ^ "3 1 Henley, 'Wind Beneath My Wings' writer, dies". Shreveport Times. December 18, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  11. ^ THE CANNONBALL RUN, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  12. ^ "'Wind Beneath My Wings' Soars With Six Million Spins". Broadcast Media, Inc. February 5, 2004. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  13. ^ "Songwriters set sight on Oscar". The Telegraph. April 27, 1990. Retrieved December 19, 2014.