Since its release 30 years ago, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) has been recorded by artists from across the musical spectrum, from underground punk rockers Down by Law through to the shrill anthropomorphic charms of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
But in what may be the most improbable version to date, veteran television presenter Carol Smillie has covered Charlie and Craig Reid’s 1988 hit while cheerfully trying to revive a stricken pensioner.
The quirky take on the timeless song forms the soundtrack for a new campaign designed to encourage hundreds of thousands of Scots to learn how to carry out CPR.
The simple yet lifesaving medical procedure involves giving chest compressions to someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest, helping to keep blood pumping around their body.
By chance, the timing of the compressions matches the tempo of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), a discovery which inspired the Scottish Government to record the new cover with the Save a Life for Scotland partnership, complete with a lyrical twist.
The accompanying video, which has quickly gained traction online, sees Smillie appearing from a shed to help Jimmy, an elderly man who is lying unconscious in his garden. She administers CPR in front of a metallic cat ornament, singing: “I will press 500 times, and I will press 500 more.”
Health secretary Shona Robison who launched the film yesterday, said it was an attempt to impart the importance of learning CPR skills to “new audiences”.
“Everybody knows 500 Miles and of course, the rhythm of it is exactly the rhythm you require when you’re administering CPR,” she said.
“There’s a hugely important message behind it, and that is to learn CPR skills so that if you need to use them, you can literally save a life.”
The video is designed to promote the government’s ambition to have 300,000 more Scots learn CPR skills by 2020, potentially saving an additional 1,000 lives.
Lisa MacInnes, director of the Save a Life for Scotland campaign said: “We hope that 500 miles will become the CPR anthem for a generation in Scotland.
“This familiar tune will remind us that CPR is the right thing to do and the beat helps us remember the right rhythm for chest compressions.”
The song received an excitable reaction on social media, with many observers approving of the message, even if they questioned the jolly theme of the video.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP, said it was a “very clever” idea, albeit one that was “ever so slightly macabre”.
It’s not the first time the song has received high profile attention thanks to a cover version.
Sleeping at Last, the US alternative rock musical project headed by Ryan O’Neal, famously did a version that was used during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.